From Shanghai to Sharjah, the plumes of smoke and volcanic ash emanating from Iceland are causing chaos across the sporting world. Airspace remains closed across much of Europe with analysts predicting the billowing cloud will not dissipate until, possibly, the end of the week. The result is a host of international sportsmen altering itineraries in a desperate attempt to reduce havoc.
Those affected most by the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano include Valentino Rossi and his fellow MotoGP riders, who were supposed to compete in the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday. The event was postponed yesterday following air travel problems in Motegi, north of Tokyo. The race will now take place on October 3, with the next round of the championship scheduled for Jerez, Spain, on May 2.
Elsewhere, members of several Formula One teams the majority of whom live in Europe have been forced to extend their stays in Shanghai following Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix. Some staff have flown to Dubai and Singapore, but found their flights grounded. Jaime Alguersuari, the Spanish driver for F1's Scuderia Toro Rosso, opted to take connections in Beijing and New York before finally arriving in Madrid in a bid to maximise his preparation ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona next month.
The Barcelona football team, in contrast, travelled by coach to Italy where they are scheduled to play Inter Milan in the semi-finals of the European Champions League tonight. In the other final-four pairing, Lyon are driving from France to Munich, Germany. And in the Europa League, both Fulham and Liverpool have been ordered to play their respective semi-finals, meaning the Merseyside team face a 900-mile journey to meet Atletico Madrid. As reported in The National yesterday, the Afghanistan cricket team, following the closure of European airspace, have been forced to prepare for their World Twenty20 campaign at a makeshift training camp in Sharjah. The team are scheduled to face India on May 1 in St Lucia, but had planned to travel to the West Indies early in order to to acclimatise. However, the team's flight to the Caribbean involved a connection in the UK.
The Moroccan Golf Classic in El Jadida, which was due to start on Thursday, has been postponed, while the London and Boston marathons have been affected. Abdellah Falil, the Moroccan runner, failed in several attempts to fly to Boston and is stranded in Paris. In London, elite athletes such as Sammy Wanjiru, who won the capital's marathon last year, and Irina Mikitenko of Germany could be forced to miss the race on Sunday if airspace does not reopen.