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Sport left grounded by volcanic ash eruption

Valentino Rossi leads the field away in Qatar but this weekend's MotoGP race in Japan is off.
Valentino Rossi leads the field away in Qatar but this weekend's MotoGP race in Japan is off.
  • Travel disruption from volcanic ash eruption in Iceland disrupting sport
  • This weekend's Japanese MotoGP postponed until October 3
  • Barcelona forced to travel by coach to Champions League semifinal in Milan
  • London and Boston marathons hit as competitors struggling to get to races

(CNN) -- The volcanic eruption in Iceland is having an adverse impact on international sport with next weekend's Japanese MotoGP the latest casualty.

The Motegi race circuit near Tokyo was supposed to host the likes of Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner for the second round of this year's championship, but with flights from Europe severely restricted, organizers took the decision to postpone the race.

It will now be held on October 3, between the 14th and 15th rounds in Spain and Malaysia.

"Although the situation is beyond our control, we sincerely apologize to fans who have been eagerly waiting for the world's top-level race," said Hiroshi Oshima, president of the race operators.

MotoGP is not the only motorsport event affected, with Formula One teams, who took part last weekend's grand prix in Shanghai, struggling to get back to their European bases.

It has led to fears that the fifth round in Barcelona on May 9 could be called off because there would be inadequate time to freight back the cars and get them ready to race.

But F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone has dismissed fears that it was under threat.

"No. Not at all. There are no problems with the race," he told gathered reporters in Shanghai.

But other more immediate sporting fixtures have been thrown into chaos, with European champions Barcelona forced to make a near 1,000 km coach journey to play the first leg of their Champions League semifinal against Inter in Milan on Tuesday.

At this moment in time, making a team travel by coach belongs to a bygone age
--Txiki Begiristain

Barca's technical director Txiki Begiristain told the club's Web site that they were unhappy with the travel situation, which he claimed put them at a disadvantage.

"UEFA must be flexible," he said.

"I know that there aren't enough dates to play but in the end you have to make an effort so as not to give one team an advantage, in this case the home team.

"At this moment in time, making a team travel by coach belongs to a bygone age." he added.

English clubs Liverpool and Fulham are also struggling to get to Europa League semifinal ties on Thursday in Madrid and Hamburg respectively after UEFA said both would go ahead.

Fulham confirmed on its club Web site that their match in Germany remains unchanged, while Liverpool told CNN they are arranging alternative travel plans for their tie against Atletico Madrid.

Organizers of Sunday's London marathon have also been left with a headache to make sure their field of elite runners can get to the British capital in time, while Monday's Boston marathon, the oldest on the calendar, has also been hard-hit with competitors from around the world unable to get to the United States.

Moroccan Olympian Abdellah Falil has been forced out of the elite men's race because of the travel restrictions.

England's cricketers may also have to put their travel plans on hold as they prepare to fly out to the Caribbean for the Twenty20 World Cup.

The crisis came about after a vast cloud of ash spewed from Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano since last Wednesday.

It has forced airlines to cancel flights across most of Europe, leaving millions of passengers stranded around the globe.

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