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Japan figure skating worlds should be moved

Posted: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 | 10:03 PM

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The time has come for the International Skating Union to make a courageous decision, and do it for all the right reasons.

With Japan struggling in the wake of last week's natural disaster, the ISU should move the world figure skating championships to another country, and do it as soon as possible.

Canceling or postponing the event until October, when Tokyo may or may not be ready to host it (the city is unable to do so now), should not be viable options.
asada-584.jpgJapan's Mao Asada can give her wounded country something to cheer about, if the ISU gives her the chance, writes Scott Russell. (Wally Santana/Associated Press)

The time has come for the International Skating Union to make a courageous decision, and do it for all the right reasons.

With Japan struggling in the wake of last week's natural disaster, the ISU should move the world figure skating championships to another country, and do it as soon as possible.

Canceling or postponing the event until October, when Tokyo may or may not be ready to host it (the city is unable to do so now), should not be viable options.

With all due respect, the priority of every Japanese authority should involve the safety of the people of that country. The focus should be on healing wounds, repairing the damage, feeding the thousands of homeless and beginning the process of reconstruction.

By respectfully moving the championships to a different site, the ISU would be acknowledging that figure skaters in Japan are adored, sometimes worshiped, figures that may, if allowed to showcase their talent, play a small part in the recuperation of the national psyche during a time of crisis.

Chance to make a difference

This should not be about logistics or whether or not the championships can turn a profit.

Instead, this should be about sport playing the part it claims it can in the lives of ordinary people. Namely, that the gifted athletes become the embodiment of their proud nations and serve to inspire the masses with their uplifting performances.

Mao Asada, twice a world champion, and her teammate Miki Ando, who has also held the crown, along with the current men's champion Daisuke Takahashi, are superstars in Japan. They are followed wherever they travel by a crush of media. Back home, their millions of disciples anxiously crave word of their successes.

In this case, the efforts of the Japanese skaters become, symbolically at least, crucial, as people all over Japan desperately need something to cheer for. In other words, if athletes really are role models, then let the Japanese skaters fulfill their potential at the appointed hour.

The excuse that a venue, enough hotel rooms, or volunteers cannot be found in a limited time is hogwash. In a time of crisis, anything can be done. Where there's a will there's a way, and if need be all the proceeds from ticket sales should be directed to the relief effort in Japan.

Figure skating has a chance to make a difference right now.

The ISU should respectfully get on with the world championships and demonstrate that sport still has clout beyond the bottom line.


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