The Patriots' trip to China this summer for a preseason game against the Seahawks has been postponed for at least one year, a league source confirmed last night.
The NFL has scheduled an announcement for today to update the status of the game. The game was to be played Aug. 9 at Workers Stadium in Beijing and serve as part of a one-year countdown to the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Because the Olympics will be in Beijing in 2008, it is unlikely the China Bowl will be held until 2009, at the earliest.
NFL and Patriots officials did not confirm the initial report by Peter King on SI.com that the game had been called off last night. The Patriots were scheduled to send team officials to China this week, but that trip was postponed.
As part of the China Bowl experience, the Patriots were scheduled to fly to Seattle to face the Seahawks in their preseason opener Aug. 2. The teams then were scheduled to travel to Beijing separately and in the days leading up to the China Bowl would promote the game as part of various festivities.
With the China Bowl now postponed, the Patriots and Seahawks are likely to reschedule the Aug. 2 game as well, so the Patriots can avoid a cross-country trip.
Last September, Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft was joined by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Mrs. Ren Jun of the Beijing Sports Bureau, and NBC chairman Dick Ebersol at Gillette Stadium for the official announcement of the China Bowl, which was to be broadcast live on NBC. At the time, Kraft said: "If there's any country we should bring our game to, it's [China], the most populous country on earth, where there's a great business environment and a great love of sport."
Goodell had explained that the NFL first began focusing on the game in 1999.
"From our perspective, the most important thing for us is to be able to build the game of football in China," he said.
The NFL is also playing its first regular-season game outside of North America this year, when the Giants face the Dolphins Oct. 28 in London.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick had been planning for the China Bowl as recently as last week, citing the trip, and the team's early scheduled start to training camp, as one of the reasons he did not attend the NFL's annual meeting in Phoenix.
Last Wednesday, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said he was looking forward to his players having the experience of playing in China.
Belichick was less effusive regarding his thoughts on the game, although he was prophetic last September when he said: "That stuff is so far in the future that I don't know if China will be there a year from now. I don't know if I'll be there a year from now."
Mike Reiss can be reached at email@example.com.