- Top Tens
We are sorry to announce... freak postponementsJo Carter October 19, 2012
In a nod to England's rescheduled World Cup qualifying clash against Poland due to a waterlogged pitch, we've picked out ten instances where sporting events were forced to be postponed. Of course, there are plenty of occasions where rain has stopped play in cricket or tennis, so we've challenged ourselves to find slightly more unusual circumstances.
Aintree on alert
Due to be held on April 5 1997, the 150th Grand National was called off following IRA bomb threats. Less than an hour before the race was scheduled to take place, police received a telephone call claiming that an explosive device had been planted at the racecourse. Initially racegoers were moved from the stands onto the course, but after consulting with the police, clerk of the course Charles Barnett evacuated the grounds completely before police carried out two controlled explosions. Stranded racegoers were put up in homes around Liverpool, while many of the horses were moved to nearby Haydock. More than 20,000 people returned to Aintree two days later (Monday) to watch Lord Gyllene romp to a 25-length victory.
It's a knockout
When the 'Louisville Lip', Cassius Clay, stripped Sonny Liston of his heavyweight titles in February 1964 after Liston suffered a shoulder injury, a rematch was scheduled for November later that year in Boston. However, three days before the fight Clay, now known as Muhammad Ali, was rushed to hospital requiring emergency surgery for a strangulated hernia. The bout was rescheduled for May 1965, but the fight nearly didn't go ahead after an attempted injunction to stop the bout - only for the tiny town of Lewiston, Maine to step in to host the event. In the aftermath of Malcolm X's murder, security was tight over fears for both boxers' lives, with a bomb squad brought in from New York to screen the building. Only 2,434 fans watched the fight, and many had not even settled in their seats when Ali knocked out Liston with the renowned 'Phantom Punch' in the first round.
A bitter taste may still have been in the mouths of the Europeans after the exuberant celebrations of the Americans following their Ryder Cup victory at Brookline two years before, but any sense of injustice was quickly dispelled by the events of September 11, 2001. Sport around the globe took a back seat following the terrorist attacks on New York. Fearing for their safety and traumatised by the tragic events, the American team voiced their concerns at flying to England for the biennial three-day event due to take place at the Belfry a little over a fortnight later, and the European Ryder Cup Board agreed to a request sent by the PGA of America to reschedule the event for 12 months later. "What happened in America last week has put the Ryder Cup and everything else into perspective," European captain Sam Torrance said. "I am desperately heartbroken for all the people involved in this terrible tragedy... all I can feel at the moment is an immense sadness."
England's friendly against the Dutch was called off after rioting in London last summer. Parts of London had been left devastated after three nights of violence across the capital, and police struggling to contain the rebels. After consulting with the police, government and local authority, the Football Association made the decision to cancel the fixture. "We have received clear advice that due to the sporadic and widespread nature of the unrest, there were concerns over the available emergency service resource to safely police this fixture," FA chairman David Bernstein said. "In light of these concerns, the authorities have advised us under the terms of our safety certificate that we are unable to host the fixture of guarantee the safety of visiting supporters or the teams. For these reasons the game cannot go ahead." A managerless England (in the wake of Fabio Capello's resignation) were denied by Arjen Robben's injury-time strike as the Dutch claimed a 3-2 victory during the rearranged fixture in February.
The weather may have been below zero but the atmosphere was red-hot inside the Stade de France as fans prepared for kick-off in Paris, with the Six Nations crown set to be decided as France hosted Ireland. But the roars soon changed to jeers as despite passing an earlier pitch inspection, the match was called off just ten minutes before the scheduled start time. A marching band was in position, ready to play the national anthems, but the teams failed to take to the pitch. France captain Thierry Dusautoir's address to the fans did little to soften the blow: "Thanks to everyone for coming to encourage us tonight, unfortunately the game has been called off," he said over the stadium's PA system. "I hope you will all come and support us next time. The decision has been taken, and now we will prepare for the next time."
Distress in the desert
In February 2011, organisers of the Bahrain Grand Prix announced the inevitable - that the opening race of the F1 calendar had been postponed due to ongoing unrest in the area. Despite widespread calls for the event to be cancelled, F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone refused to buckle, saying that it remained the call of the organisers. "After the events of the past week, our nation's priority is on overcoming tragedy, healing divisions and rediscovering the fabric that draws this country together; reminding the world of the very best that Bahrain is capable of as a nation once again united," Bahrain's Crown Prince said. Michael Schumacher supported the call, saying: "The people there right now have more important issues than Formula One, and those of course have priority."
A matter of life and death
Bill Shankly famously said that football was more important than a matter of life and death, but the events of March 17, 2012 swiftly put sporting matters firmly into perspective. Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba was left fighting for his life after suffering a heart attack on the pitch during the Trotters' FA Cup quarter-final against Tottenham at White Hart Lane. The former England Under-21 international was taken to hospital after paramedics attempted to resuscitate him. With many of the players clearly traumatised by what they had witnessed, referee Howard Webb took the players off and it was later confirmed the game would not continue. Muamba made a full recovery, although he was forced to hang up his boots. Tottenham went on to reach the semi-finals after winning the rearranged fixture 3-1.
We've heard of plenty of sporting fixtures falling foul of wintry weather, but how about an event cancelled because of not enough snow? Historically a skier's paradise, Kirkwood in California was unable to host the North Face Masters snowboarding contest in March this year because, despite a base of around 70 inches, the snow coverage was "not up to the standards" of the event's organisers.
With Britain mourning the tragic death of Princess Diana in August 1999, the nation came to a standstill as 'The People's Princess' was laid to rest. Sports fixtures across the country were postponed, and the NatWest Cricket Trophy final between Essex and Warwickshire was switched to the Sunday. Scotland's World Cup qualifier against Belarus was scheduled to go ahead as planned, only for it to be postponed after protests from indignant fans and pressure from Prime Minister Tony Blair and Scottish Secretary Donald Dewer, prompting calls for SFA chief executive Jim Farry's resignation. A number of Scottish players, including Ally McCoist, had made themselves unavailable for selection if the match went ahead. "I don't think I could do myself justice, the team justice or the fans justice if I was involved on Saturday," McCoist said. "I would have to qualify it by saying that if the game does go ahead Scotland won't have a bigger supporter than me and it's nothing against any of the other lads or anything to do with the Scottish team. It's just from a personal point of view that I don't think I could focus 100 per cent."
It's a lockout
In October 2011, the National Basketball Association (NBA) was forced to cancel the first two weeks of the season after team owners and players entered a pay dispute. After months of wrangling and a lockout, the two parties failed to agree terms after the old collective bargaining agreement had expired, with negotiations stalling. "I'm sorry to report, particularly for the thousands of people that depend on our industry for their livelihood, that the first two weeks of the season have been cancelled," NBA commissioner David Stern said. "We spent two days here in New York City, I think it's fair to say that we established the positions of the parties with complete certainty of where each stood and we remain really very, very far apart." Those two weeks turned into over two months, and after fears that the whole season would be cancelled, the new collective bargaining agreement was ratified on December 8 with the regular season - reduced from 82 to 66 games - finally getting underway on Christmas Day.