The Overwatch League announced that due to the “Covid situation that is happening in China right now”, the start of the 2022 season in the east region is being delayed by two weeks and will start on May 20.
The change will affect Chinese teams Chengdu Hunters, Guangzhou Charge, Hangzhou Spark and Shanghai Dragons, as well as American teams Los Angeles Valiant, New York Excelsior and Philadelphia Fusion, and South Korean team Seoul Dynasty. The West region will not be affected by the change and will start the season on May 5th as originally scheduled.
“We will be delaying the East schedule by two weeks, until May 20th,” Overwatch League boss Sean Miller said in a video update released today. “So all 21 matches will still be played, but over two weeks, and with both regions’ Kickoff Clash tournaments taking place in June.”
The fate of the Overwatch League’s live events also looks a little less than right now. Blizzard began canceling Overwatch League events in early 2020 at the start of the pandemic, before transitioning to online-only play for the remainder of the season. He tried ease back to live events in 2021, but plans in-person events for the 2021 playoffs ultimately fell through.
Blizzard will try again this year with three live events currently scheduled to take place in the West: The Battle for Texas between the Houston Outlaws and Dallas Fuel at the start of the season on May 6, and two regional tournaments hosted by Dallas Fuel and the Challenge from Toronto.
“Given the rapidly changing conditions of Covid, we are exploring the best avenues for global competition this year, with the aim of returning to LAN events,” said Miller. “So, depending on what’s possible, safety and fair competition will always be our top priorities as we look to build the most exciting thing we can do.” More details will be revealed in the coming weeks, he added.
Miller noted that this will be the Overwatch League’s first live appearance in Toronto, but the situation could be complicated by Canadian Covid-19 vaccination rules: The Major League Baseball Boston Red Sox team will be forced to leave behind players who are not vaccinated when playing in Toronto next week, for example. The Red Sox are also dealing with an outbreak of the virus.
China has been facing a major resurgence of Covid-19 cases in recent weeks, resulting in a weeks-long lockdown in Shanghai, a city of 25 million people. City officials have recently tightened restrictions in an aggressive pursuit of a “zero Covid” strategy, but residents are getting irritated by the strategy: Guardian The report says many in the city are facing loss of income and shortages of food and other essentials, while large numbers of residents have been forced to move so their neighborhoods can be disinfected.