Figure skating worlds need new host

Updated: March 21, 2011, 5:28 PM ET
Associated Press

ROME -- Figure skating's governing body hopes to select a new site for its world championships by the end of the week because Japan is unable to be this year's host.

The championships were to have begun Monday in Tokyo but had been postponed because of the earthquake and tsunami.

The International Skating Union had offered Japan the possibility of hosting the worlds in October. But the Japan Skating Federation wrote back over the weekend, saying it was handing the competition back to the ISU.

ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta told The Associated Press on Monday he has asked members capable of hosting the worlds in late April or early May to send offers by Tuesday, and the ISU council will then vote Wednesday or Thursday.

In a letter to members, the ISU said such countries need an arena with at least 8,000 seats as well as a practice rink, about 700 hotel rooms and ability to televise the event.

"I think it's great they've decided to go ahead with worlds," said Meryl Davis, the Olympic and world silver medalist in ice dance with Charlie White. "The main concern was making sure we did what was right for Japan and remaining respectful toward Japan and what it's gone through. Now that Japan has vocalized it's OK with worlds going on, I think it's definitely the appropriate decision."

Cinquanta hopes to have at least three or four candidates, and possibly seven or eight.

"We'll see what comes in and then we hope to have an announcement by Friday," he said. "We're trying to move as quickly as possible. We gave Japan as much time as we could, but unfortunately the situation there is very serious and we've had to move on. But our thoughts are still with Japan."

The sooner a decision is made the better for skaters, who tailor their training based on when they will be competing. A couple of weeks' difference might not seem like much, but it can have a big impact.

"One of scariest feelings in world, for us, is you're getting ready to go off to a competition and you're skating the best of your life," U.S. men's champion Ryan Bradley said. "All of the sudden it's like, 'I'm peaking right now and I have to compete in eight days.' It doesn't seem like a lot, but that's a huge difference."

U.S. Figure Skating told the ISU last week it could host the championships in either the arena in Lake Placid, N.Y., or the World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo. Neither arena meets the 8,000-seat threshold, but U.S. Figure Skating believes both would be "strong" bids.

Both cities have experience hosting international skating events; Lake Placid hosted Skate America in 2009, and Colorado Springs recently was chosen as the site for next year's Four Continents Championships. Most larger arenas in the United States are unavailable due to NHL and NBA games.

Skate Canada has also told the ISU it would help in any way it can, and CEO William Thompson said Monday the federation was exploring whether to bid for the worlds.

"[We] will submit a hosting bid if we can find an appropriate location with arenas, hotels and transportation infrastructure," Thompson said.

The massive earthquake and tsunami devastated northeast Japan on March 11. Police estimate the death toll will surpass 18,000.

The Japanese federation also agreed to postpone the ISU World Team Trophy, scheduled for April 14-17 in Yokohama, until 2012 at a date and site in Japan to be determined.

"I'm really torn about it," Bradley said about the worlds. "We want to compete. It's what we train for, what we do. But there are much bigger things than figure skating going on right now."


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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