Japan figure skaters to compete in China despite island row
Japanese figure skating stars will take part in the Cup of China this week as planned, despite fears of simmering anti-Japan sentiment in the host country, press reports said on Sunday.
“The Chinese skating federation, wishing to host as many international competitions as possible, has told us it will put its prestige on ensuring safety,” Japan Skating Federation president Seiko Hashimoto said.
“We have checked every possible thing,” she told Japanese media on Saturday.
She added that her federation has determined it is “all right” to send its skaters to the November 2-4 Cup of China in Shanghai, the third leg of this year’s Grand Prix series.
The Japanese federation will assign two bodyguards and two Chinese-speaking coordinators to the Japanese team, which includes former women’s world champion Mao Asada and former men’s world champion Daisuke Takahashi, Hashimoto said.
Tokyo’s nationalisation of islands that are at the centre of a territorial row with Beijing, sparked violent mass anti-Japan demonstrations in Chinese cities last month. Japanese nationals, businesses and diplomatic missions were targeted.
Athletes have since pulled out of several sporting events in both countries due to safety concerns.
The Japanese federation has sent a fact-finding team to check whether it is safe for its team to take part in the Shanghai event.
Skaters can only compete in two of the season’s six Grand Prix events and missing the Cup of China would have made it difficult for the Japanese to make December’s Grand Prix final, featuring the top six points scorers in each category.
This year’s final will be held in December at the venue selected for the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi.