This weekend, the ESL Pro Tour Masters Championship stops at Poland's Spodek arena for three days of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and StarCraft II matches in the Intel Extreme Masters Katowice 2020. The arena can hold 11,500 spectators but while IEM Katowice sold out, it has no crowd. Last night, barely 15 hours before the event started, Polish authorities revoked its mass event license due to concerns about that there coronavirus. The matches are still going ahead, just with no spectators. ESL say they will refund IEM tickets but can't refund travel and accommodation costs.
The organisers say they were told at 19:45 CET on Thursday that "the Polish State Sanitary Department decided to revoke the previously approved mass event license as a precautionary measure due to COVID-19, also known as coronavirus." They add, "Until that moment we had multiple assurances that the event could take place and a legally binding decision allowing us to organise the event." Entrance was due to begin at 11am CET today.
So the audience aren't allowed in and the accompany IEM Expo is cancelled. They say to expect details on ticket refunds "in the next few days" and that they will send premium ticket holders their goodie bags for free. But any travel and accommodation costs are on the would-be attendees.
"The global health situation is outside of our control," they say. "We tried our very best to make this event happen, but respect the late decision of the local government. Because of this, we won't be able to refund any travel and accommodation. We recommend all fans to still try to cancel their bookings. Also make sure to check with your travel insurance if this case is covered."
That's not a surprise but it still sucks for fans.
Concerns about COVID-19 spreading through crowds and international travel are derailing a lot of video games events. The Overwatch League cancelled matches in China and, later, South Korea. Some other CS. A bit of League Of Legends. A dash of Pokémon Go. Many other digital sports and tournaments. And companies including Microsoft, Epic Games, Unity, Sony, Facebook, and Kojima Productions have pulled out the Game Developers Conference coming up in March, though the event is still due to go ahead.
For a view from inside China, I do recommend Alexis Ong's post on making indie games under the coronavirus quarantine.
IEM Katowice started this morning and runs until Sunday. You can still watch the matches but you'll find no big cheers, chants, or parading in front of the fans.