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Women’s World Cup Moved Because of SARS

May 3, 2003 GMT

ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) _ The Women’s World Cup will be moved from China because of SARS, soccer’s governing body said Saturday.

FIFA’s executive committee made the decision after consulting with the World Health Organization. The fourth Women’s World Cup was to be held in China from Sept. 23 to Oct. 11.

``It will be transferred to another country in view of the current health threat in China, which is greatly affected by the SARS epidemic,″ FIFA said in a statement.

FIFA said the United States and Australia have shown interest in staging the tournament, although FIFA did not decide whether the dates will be the same as originally planned. The United States hosted the 1999 Women’s World Cup. In Australia, the scheduled dates would overlap with rugby’s World Cup, which starts Oct. 10.

China will host the 2007 Women’s World Cup.

SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, has killed more than 400 people worldwide _ the majority in China and neighboring Hong Kong _ and sickened more than 6,000.

Other sports events have been affected, including the cancellation of four WNBA exhibition games against China’s national team. The women’s ice hockey world championships in China were canceled, and the world badminton championships (to be held in Birmingham, England) were postponed because many Asians were expected to compete.

On Friday, the International Cycling Union moved the world track cycling championships to Europe from China.

Sixteen teams are scheduled to take part in the Women’s World Cup. The United States, Nigeria, Ghana, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Germany, Norway, Russia, Sweden and France have already qualified. China automatically qualifies as the host.

A qualifying tournament in Thailand was moved from April to June because of SARS. The draw to set the groups for the finals was postponed because of concerns over SARS.