MOSCOW — The world figure skating championships have a new site and a new date.
The event will be held April 24 to May 1 at Moscow’s Megasport arena, the International Skating Union announced Thursday. The worlds initially were scheduled for this week in Tokyo, but Japanese officials said last weekend there was no way the country could serve as host following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis.
“We’ve been to Moscow a couple of times before for events, and I think it’s going to be a really good venue,” said Meryl Davis, the Olympic and world silver medalist in ice dance with Charlie White.
The ISU and Japanese skating officials had hoped to have the worlds in Tokyo after Yoyogi stadium escaped damage. When that became impossible, the ISU postponed the competition and offered Japan the chance to be the host in October.
But the Japan Skating Federation said last weekend that was not possible, and skating officials began searching for an alternate site. The world championships were canceled only once since World War II — in 1961 after a plane crash killed the entire U.S. team on its way to Prague for the event.
“In the light of the dramatic situation in Japan, the staging of sporting events becomes relatively secondary and a solution satisfying all involved is extremely difficult,” the ISU said in its statement Thursday. “Nevertheless, it is in the best interest of the ISU and its members to hold the championships as soon as possible.”
The United States, Canada, Finland, Croatia and Austria all joined Russia in offering to hold the worlds in late April or early May. Moscow appeared the favorite after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin threw his support behind the bid, saying “this is not a very expensive event and we are capable of taking care of all the expenses.” Russia also promised easy access to visas, often difficul t to obtain.
“We applaud the Figure Skating Federation of Russia for stepping forward and offering to host the event,” Skate Canada CEO William Thompson said. “They will have strong support throughout their country to plan and execute these championships in such a tight timeline.”
Moscow hosted the skating world championships in 2005, but at a different arena. The Megasport arena has been the site of Cup of Russia, a Grand Prix event, the past three seasons.
The announcement Thursday came as a relief to most skaters, who had been in limbo since the earthquake, not knowing when — or, for a time, if — the worlds would be held. Like most athletes, skaters plan their training schedules meticulously to be in peak form for the biggest events, and the best they could do was guess at when that might be.
“Excited to get back to normal!” U.S. men’s bronze medalist Ross Miner posted on Twitter.
Many had also made plans to join skating tours, which can be a big source of their income, after the world championships. Davis and White were supposed to join “Stars on Ice” for its last six shows, beginning April 1. They have now declined, saying they need to concentrate on training for the worlds.
“That’s life,” Davis said. “Worlds was our priority.”
An estimated 18,000 people have been killed in Japan and hundreds of thousands are homeless. The ISU said the Japanese team, including reigning world champions Mao Asada and Daisuke Takahashi, deserve “special attention and respect” in Moscow.
“It’s easy for us to get really excited about worlds and, now that our schedules are set, we can move forward,” Davis said. “Just because our problems were fixed today doesn’t mean Japan’s problems are fixed today. Or tomorrow.”