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Wednesday, March 16, 2011
ISU considering three options for worlds

Associated Press

ROME -- International skating officials are still waiting for a response from Japanese organizers but may have to decide on their own what to do about the world figure skating championships scheduled to begin Monday in Tokyo.

International Skating Union president Ottavio Cinquanta told The Associated Press that he sent a letter to Japanese organizers Tuesday asking if they would be capable of hosting the championships in several months.

"We're not closing the door in the face of the Japanese, but we need to know, and the skaters need to know. We are still waiting for a reply," Cinquanta said Wednesday from his Milan office. "If we don't hear anything in another two or three days we're going to have to make the decision ourselves."

Cinquanta said the ISU is considering three options: Japan hosting the worlds at a later date, moving the championships to another country or canceling them altogether.

The ISU and Japanese skating officials initially hoped the worlds could go ahead as planned because Yoyogi Stadium escaped damage in Friday's earthquake and tsunami that devastated the northeast coastline. But they acknowledged Monday that was impossible in light of the scale of the destruction and ensuing nuclear power plant crisis that has triggered international alarm.

Nearly 3,700 people are officially listed as dead, but officials believe the toll will climb over 10,000 since several thousand more are listed as missing.

"This is a minor problem compared to everything else people in Japan are dealing with," Cinquanta said.

The only cancellation of the worlds since World War II came in 1961, when the entire United States team was killed in a plane crash on its way to the event in Prague.

Canceling the championships this time seems unlikely.

"That would be an extreme decision," Cinquanta said. "There are a lot of aspects involved in this. The skaters want to skate, then there's TV, sponsors and all the other companies involved. It's a big operation.

"The most important thing at this point is not turning our backs on Japan. We have to be sensitive toward the Japanese," Cinquanta said.

Cinquanta wouldn't speculate on which country might be able to host the championships if they are moved from Japan.

"That's just a hypothesis at this point," he said. "I can't ask any other country to come forward while we're still waiting to hear from Japan."