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Pre-Olympic planning a slippery subject for luge chiefs

By MURRAY GREIG | China Daily | Updated: 2020-12-09 09:53
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Work is carried out on the track at the National Sliding Center in Beijing's Yanqing district, a venue for the 2022 Olympics. Xinhua

Now that the International Luge Federation won't be sliding into China any time soon, the sport's global sanctioning body is scrambling to find a site for the last event on its season schedule.

A week of training events and a World Cup race scheduled for February on the track built for the 2022 Beijing Olympics have been moved to October 2021, meaning that most of the world's top luge athletes will not lay eyes on the track at the Yanqing National Sliding Center until just over three months before the Games begin.

Stretching 1.9 kilometers, the track is the first ever in China and the third in Asia for the sport. Typically, new Olympic venues hold test events and international training weeks at least a year ahead of hosting the Games.

"A postponement of our training week and the test event in China is the safest solution for our athletes and the coaches in the current pandemic situation," FIL president Einars Fogelis said last week.

"We think the circumstances will be better in the autumn of 2021, and we saw during the pre-homologation two months ago that the Yanqing track is very well planned and built and that the conditions there are excellent, even in the fall."

A small number of international luge athletes saw the track in mid-October during what is called 'pre-homologation'-part of the testing process before a new facility is certified as suitable for competition.

Bobsled and skeleton tests were also held during that event, with all the competing athletes from those sports being members of China's national teams.

"We saw an excellently prepared track and were impressed by the smooth and perfectly organized event which was held under strict hygiene measurements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was definitely the most impressive pre-homologation we have ever seen," Ivo Ferriani, president of the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, said after his technical inspection.

"I want to thank the Beijing 2022 organizing committee for the outstanding work they have done so far. Additionally, huge thanks to the Chinese national athletes and their coaches for their participation."

Sliders from several countries, including Canada and the US, are not taking part in World Cup competitions in luge, bobsled or skeleton this season because of the pandemic and international travel restrictions.

The bobsled and skeleton world championships were due to be held in Lake Placid, but were moved to Germany because of worries about the virus in the US and quarantine rules in New York.

The final stop on the bobsled and skeleton World Cup series scheduled for the Yanqing complex in March has been canceled as well. The last luge race on this season's international slate now is the world championships in Konigssee, Germany, from Jan 29-31, though another World Cup event could be added to replace Beijing.

Luge's world championships were shifted to Germany from Whistler, Canada, because of quarantine and travel concerns. Canada's requirement of a 14-day quarantine for people arriving from outside of the country was the biggest hurdle.

The Whistler Sliding Center, which hosted luge during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, was the site of the 2013 world championships.

Canada's loss of the global luge championships came on the heels of World Cup speedskating cancelations in Calgary and Montreal, and quashed World Cup men's and women's alpine downhills in Lake Louise, Alberta.

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