Sunday, March 13, 2011
Japan world championships in jeopardy
LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Germany announced Sunday it will not send a team to next week's world figure skating championships in Tokyo, and international skating officials were weighing whether to even hold the event following the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the country.
Germany, the United States and several European countries have advised citizens not to travel to Japan, and the German Ice Skating Union said in a statement it would follow that recommendation. The first German skaters would have left Wednesday for worlds, which are scheduled to begin March 21 at Yoyogi stadium in Tokyo.
"The German Ice Skating Union decided today to follow the travel recommendations of the Foreign Office and refrain from traveling to Japan for the 2011 World Championships," the federation said.
The threat of nuclear meltdowns at plants as close as 170 miles from Tokyo has prompted mass evacuations and fears of radiation contamination.
U.S. Figure Skating said it was monitoring developments in consultation with the International Skating Union and U.S. Olympic Committee. The United States is sending 15 skaters to worlds, with Meryl Davis and Charlie White favorites to become the first Americans to win a world title in ice dance.
"There's definitely some concern there," U.S. men's champion Ryan Bradley said. "Obviously, as badly as I want to go and compete at a world championships and how much I want to perform, how important is it in the grand scheme of things? Everything going on over there is way bigger than figure skating right now."
The ISU initially said Yoyogi stadium had been undamaged by Friday's earthquake, and the worlds would begin as planned. But it said Sunday it was considering canceling the event because of the "very worrisome" nuclear crisis. The threat of multiple reactor meltdowns has forced the evacuation of more than 180,000 people and prompted fears of radiation contamination.
States of emergency have been declared at six reactors, including three at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex 170 miles from Tokyo. France has suggested people leave Tokyo in case radiation reached the city.
The ISU said it "respected" the Japanese skating federation's desire to go ahead with worlds in Tokyo.
"However, the recent developments since Saturday, in particular the developments in the Fukushima nuclear plant, are very worrisome," the ISU said in a statement Sunday, "and also resulted in travel advisories from many countries to avoid traveling to Japan until the situation is settled."
The ISU said it is waiting for more information from Japanese authorities, and would have another statement by Monday morning at the latest. The last time the world figure skating championships were canceled was in 1961 following the plane crash that killed the entire U.S. team.
"I feel like I can skate with the best skaters in the world and I was really anxious to show that off and perform on that stage with them, as their peer as opposed to the third spot for the U.S. men," Bradley said. "So it's a little devastating, for sure. But things are so bad over there it kind of puts it in perspective."
Asian Champions League soccer games scheduled for this week in Japan have already been called off, and Japan soccer authorities suspended all 19 J-League first and second division games this weekend. Baseball games in Tokyo, Chiba and Yokohama also were called off.