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‘Not the end of the world’ if there is no Tour in 2020, says French sports minister

French ban on public gatherings could extend through September, warns minister.

Although the Tour de France has already been postponed to August 29, there is still no certainty that Le Tour will run at all in 2020.

Earlier this month, the Tour was shifted back by two months to its late-summer slot after French authorities imposed a ban on public gatherings through mid-July in a bid to combat coronavirus. French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu has now stated that the ban could extend until September, “or until further notice, until we find a vaccine,” with the possibility that 2020 sees no sporting events at all.

And if that means the Tour has to take a hiatus for one year, then so be it.

“If [the Tour] is not possible, it will not be the end of the world,” Maracineanu told Club d’Eurosport, Wednesday. “What is certain is that sport will not be a priority in our society. It is not a priority today in decisions made by the government.”

The Tour is not the only French institution that would take a hit if public events are canceled through to fall. Tennis tournament Roland-Garros, slated to start September 20, would also be at risk.

The Tour is the economic driver of professional cycling, with team sponsorships and rider contracts revolving around performances at the race. With the event also drawing thousands of tourists and guaranteeing the prosperity of the hospitality industry through summer, Maracineanu admitted there could be severe economic impacts if the race was canceled.

“It will undoubtedly be the end of many things that were supported by the revenues from these [sports] tournaments and the Tour de France,” she said. “We will have to reinvent ourselves if a year is missed.”

Experts set off alarm bells this week regards the viability of holding races this summer, even with the use of mitigation measures such as social distancing and face masks.  Maracineanu explained that the availability of sanitary and protective equipment would form a role in any decisions made addressing the fate of sporting events this year.

“If at the exit [from confinement], there are not enough masks, if as today the tests remain reserved for people who present symptoms and that it is the sportsmen confirming their condition… that will not be done,” she said.

Despite ASO boss Christian Prudhomme’s previous assertion that the Tour would not take place in a stripped-back format without fans, Maracineanu stated that any competitions that did return later this year would take place “behind closed doors, or in degraded mode with very strict restrictions on the level of spectators present.”