After all, China’s hockey team will compete in the Beijing Olympics
The ice hockey governing body finally ended lingering questions on Tuesday as to whether the sad Chinese team would be allowed to compete in the Olympic men’s hockey tournament, confirming less than two months before the scheduled start of the Winter Games that the team would indeed compete in Beijing.
The International Ice Hockey Federation said in a statement Tuesday that its leaders, at a two-day meeting in Zurich, “confirmed that they would uphold the decision” taken several years ago to include the team. Chinese in the Olympic competition. The verdict, after months of skepticism about the viability of the team and questions from the head of the ice hockey federation about the interest of having it on the Olympic field, allows China to dodge its pride but will have little effect on the medal race in Beijing.
The Chinese team, which is ranked 32nd in the world, will meet Canada, Germany and the United States as a group, making it extremely unlikely that they will progress. But host countries are regularly privileged to participate in all sports, and the potential exclusion of China from one of the most popular events of the Winter Games had threatened to smear the sports curriculum vitae the country laboriously had. built.
Although China turned into a powerhouse at the Summer Games – they finished second in medals at the Tokyo Olympics this year – their proficiency in winter team sports is less than excellent. And whatever China’s limited ambitions in men’s hockey, they faded in September, when the NHL announced it would allow its players to compete in Beijing, paving the way for group stage opponents to China to store their lists with most of the world’s top talent.
Tuesday’s announcement also ended any remaining chances of Norway, ranked No.11 in the world, entering the tournament as a replacement for China.
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It could also, finally, end months of chatter from hockey executives, who said in November that China would participate in the Olympics – then almost immediately signaled that the team’s position was still precarious.
Luc Tardif, the new chairman of the ice hockey governing body, has repeatedly expressed concerns about China’s ability to keep pace with its opponents in Beijing.
“Watching a team beat 15-0 is not good for anyone, not for China or for ice hockey,” Tardif told Agence France-Presse in September.
But Tardif appeared to back down in November, issuing a statement that said: “To be clear, the IIHF is not going to remove the Chinese team from the Olympics.” At the time, Tardif said the federation would work alongside Chinese officials because “they are working on preparing their team.”
He also said that “a joint effort to assess the state of the team’s preparations” would take place in two games of Kunlun Red Star, a Chinese team of the Russian Continental Hockey League made up of many players who were to compete for China at the games.
Kunlun Red Star lost the first game, 5-4, in overtime, then lost the second, 4-1. By then, Tardif had started to rekindle concerns about the prospects for the Chinese team.
The federation did not say how or why it came to its conclusion this week that China would be allowed to compete, saying little more that officials had “discussed the status of the Chinese men’s ice hockey team.”
Chinese media, which previously criticized speculation about the team’s removal as unfair, reported the news without fanfare on Thursday morning.
“This is a rare opportunity to compete with the best teams in the world,” said an article on the Internet platform Sohu in November. “The Chinese men’s ice hockey team can learn and improve from real combat, which is not available in daily training.”
Much of China’s problems can be attributed to its strict dual citizenship rules, which other countries use to strengthen their hockey and other sports teams. China’s refusal to recognize dual citizenship and its demands for naturalized foreign-born athletes to compete under its flag have long limited its ability to compile rosters.
The Chinese women’s hockey team also remains on track to compete in the Beijing Games. This team is ranked 20th in the world.
Steven lee myers contributed reports.