China Refuses to Host its Fall Events
China no longer will to host its senior or junior Grand Prix events; currently looking to go to Korea and Canada respectively.
When it came to controversy at the 2018 Olympics, everyone was paying so much attention to the scandal surrounding the previous host of the Olympics, they might have missed a few goings-on involving the next one. But China, like Russia, is a country that is currently fancying itself wronged. Even in Korea, the high number of disqualifications the Chinese suffered in speed skating sent suspicious tongues wagging. Naturally, recent word that the International Skating Union is currently investigating the behavior of two Chinese judges in PyeongChang has not helped matters. Both Chinese and international skating officials are people that can’t entirely be trusted, which means it’s hard to tell whether China has a genuine reason for complaint or not.
It’s been fifteen years since China agreed to start a new competition, the Cup of China, specifically to be part of the fall Grand Prix series, when the series’ German event was discontinued. That change was made in 2003, and since then, while their order has shuffled about, it has always been the same six Grand Prix events. Last year, they also held a special event, the Shanghai Trophy, which was supposed to be a reoccurring event with competitions in all three of figure, speed, and synchronized skating. And this year, they were also supposed to host a Junior Grand Prix event in Harbin.
But right now, China is not willing to host anything. Less than three weeks before officials are scheduled to meet to decide Grand Prix assignments, the ISU has officially announced that they had given up all three events. That’s already resulted in the cancellation of the Shanghai Trophy; it would be too hard to find it another host. That one not too many people care about anyway.
The other two events must go on if at all possible, and the ISU has already confirmed a replacement for the JGP event. Vancouver, which is already hosting the Grand Prix Final, has taken it. Montreal has hosted a Canadian JGP event three times, but the last one was in 2005, and Vancouver’s a new host. However, they’re one with plenty of experience hosting skating events, including the Olympics, and were already preparing their ice for one skating competition.
The ISU’s first choice of replacement host for the senior Grand Prix event is South Korea. That’s the most logical host; of all the countries without an event already, it’s by far the one where skating is the biggest. There was even talk of holding a new Grand Prix event there half a decade back, when it looked like the French event might go under. Also, it allows the ISU to keep the events evenly divided between North America, Europe, and Asia. They especially do not want to lose an Asian event when it’s the continent skating is currently most popular on.
But they haven’t gotten any promises out of Korea yet. They apparently won’t get a final answer until the 25th, the day before the Grand Prix meeting is supposed to start. One wonders what on Earth they’re going to do if Korea refuses. It’s not impossible they have a back-up host already. Clearly the Chinese federation didn’t notify them as late as today, if they’ve already settled everything with Vancouver. Still, there aren’t many more countries that might be willing to do it.
If a new Cup of Korea is successful enough, it may ultimately find itself a permanent part of the series, especially if China stays in its snit long enough to refuse to host anything next year either. One suspects the ISU might not want to allot any more events to them for a while.
But there may be a huge problem if this goes on for more than two years. Olympic venues are supposed to host at least one event in each sport before the Games, a dress rehearsal “test event” to work out any issues. In figure skating, that’s typically been either the European or the Four Continents Championships in the pre-Olympic season. 2021 Four Continents is currently unassigned, even with Europeans and Worlds having newly gotten their locations. One wonders if that’s because they were going to give it to China, until this happened. For Sochi it was the 2012 Grand Prix Final, which gets assigned later than most ISU Championships do, so they may give the 2020 edition to Beijing.
One hopes they have that, at least. Chinese skating events are already known for often having poor quality ice, and who knows what other disasters could unfold if they try to have Olympic figure skating there without a dry run first. Just one more possible cause of disaster for an Olympics already facing a few of them. Especially now, if the home audience stays convinced things are rigged against their athletes.