Paris, March 26: French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu says this year's Tour de France could be staged without spectators in a bid to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The French government is in talks with Tour organisers about the future of the June 27-July 19 edition of world cycling's top event which draws more than 10 millions fans annually to the roads of France.
All options are being considered including postponement or cancellation of the event which has been raced every year in peacetime since 1903, the minister said.
"Everything is imaginable. We have (imposed spectator bans) for other competitions before, even though it won't have the same impact because the business model of the Tour doesn't depend on ticket sales like football or rugby," she told France Bleu radio station on Wednesday.
The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics and the Euro 2020 football championships has focused attention on the Tour which winds its way for thousands of miles through the towns and villages of France in a wide loop for three weeks ending on the Champs Elysees in Paris.
"I think that today everybody is aware and responsible about the period of isolation we are going through and everyone knows the reasons and the benefits that it can bring to all," she said. "So finally it wouldn't be so bad because you could still watch it on TV."