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Finland winds down big events to fight coronavirus

Organisations, sports teams, promoters and theatres announced cancellations or postponements on Thursday after government announced new gudelines.

Porin jäähallin seisomakatsomo tyhjänä
Empty stands at Isomäki Areena in Pori.
Yle News

Organisers of many upcoming sport matches, concerts and other events across Finland began to announce cancellation plans in an effort to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus.

Following a government advisory to postpone or call off events that would draw more than 500 people, many organisers of sport, culture and other scheduled happenings around the country began announcing plans to cancel them.

On Thursday afternoon the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported there were 109 people in the country with confirmed coronavirus infections.

Some games to be played without punters

More than a dozen sport teams and organisations across Finland had already announced cancellations by Thursday evening.

Thursday night’s pro hockey match between HIFK and JYP at the Helsinki Ice Hall was played in front of an ampty arena, while Helsinki’s KHL team Jokerit said it would play the remainder of its games of the season without fans in the stands.

The hockey league said the final matches of the regular season would be played this weekend without fans, and a decision on the play-offs would be made later.

Similarly, the country’s gymnastics association said it was calling off the gymnastics World and Challenge Cup events scheduled at Energia Areena in Vantaa this week.

All games in the basketball league were suspended for the time being, according to the Finnish Basketball Association.

Members of the Veikkausliiga football league said they would meet on Friday to discuss possible changes for the season, which is scheduled to start on 11 April.

Organisers of the Kontiolahti Biathlon World Cup said the audience area for Thursday’s event would be empty but that the competition would be held normally.

Several other sports organisations, including skiing, handball, pesäpallo (Finnish-style baseball) and volleyball associations or leagues have either cancelled or temporarily suspended events and games.

Concerts cancelled or up-in-the-air

Cancellations or postponements of big musical events also started being announced after the government announced the 500-or-less crowd size restrictions.

Warner Music Live said the government’s new guidelines affects around 100 of the firm’s scheduled concerts. The firm, which has dozens of Finnish music artists on its roster, said it was planning to suspend ticket sales of some shows and wait to see how the situation develops, perhaps even downsizing audience numbers for some of its upcoming shows.

However, Warner said it was cancelling concerts by artists Paula Vesala in Helsinki and Suvi Teräsniska in Turku on Friday**.** The firm also said a scheduled May Day concert by J. Karjalainen at Helsinki Arena would be moved forward to 4 September.

The head of Finland’s most legendary rock clubs, Helsinki’s Tavastia, said the venue was cancelling a Thursday concert by Princess Nokia.

The rapper reportedly arrived at Helsinki Airport on Thursday morning but immediately boarded another plane back to the States after learning about US President Donald Trump’s plan to ban travellers from the Schengen area countries from travelling to America.

Two of Finland’s major concert booking firms, Fullsteam and Live Nation - which organise the vast majority of concerts in the country said they were still examining the situation and would make announcements about possible cancellations or postponements at a later date.

Some theatres to continue, others end season early

The Tampere Workers' Theatre (TTT) announced it was closing down for the spring season, in light of the new rules.

Even though TTT has fewer than 500 seats, the theatre’s director Otso Kautto, said “this is the most responsible thing we can do in this situation.”

He said theatre workers would continue to rehearse as usual and that it would contact those who have already bought tickets.

On the other hand, the Finnish National Theatre in downtown Helsinki announced that it plans to continue to hold performances for 500 audience members, the upper limit of government’s guidelines.

On Thursday evening, the Turku City Theatre said it was planning to go ahead with a performance of the play Amelie, but the number of ticketed audience members was well below 500. The theatre added that it plans to make a decision about the rest of the spring season.

Many other events also hit

Large crowds of people do not gather exclusively at music and theatre performances, a large number of events like conventions and fairs that draw tens of thousands are also scheduled in Finland this spring.

Around 30,000 people were expected to attend events held at the Turku Fair Center this spring, so many of the convention centre’s gatherings will be postponed. Likewise, several events - like the Gastro Helsinki convention - are scheduled at Helsinki’s Expo and Convention Centre this spring.

The director of the expo centre, Anni Vepsäläinen, said the facility strictly follows the instructions of authorities, adding that the safety of customers and staff were most important to the company. The expo centre said it would postpone events which would draw more than 500 people planned in April and May.

A planned commemoration for the 80th anniversary of the end of Finland’s Winter War in front of Helsinki Cathedral on Friday was also cancelled due to coronavirus concerns. However, organisers said church bells would still ring across the country in honor of the occasion. Additionally, the steps of Helsinki Cathedral will be adorned with 105 lit candles, each representing one day of the war.

An annual concert on Sunday in the city of Kuopio honoring the anniversary, which traditionally draws big crowds, has also been cancelled.

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