Ice hockey’s governing body on Tuesday finally put an end to questions about whether China’s grieving team will be allowed to play in the Olympic men’s hockey tournament, confirming that it is less than two months from the scheduled start of the Winter Games. The first team will actually compete in Beijing.
The International Ice Hockey Federation said in a statement on Tuesday that its leadership “confirmed that it will uphold the decision to include a Chinese team in Olympic competition several years ago” during a two-day meeting in Zurich. The decision, after months of doubts about the team’s viability and the head of the ice hockey federation’s questions about its value in the Olympic arena, allows China to deal a blow to its pride, but on the chase for a medal. It will have little effect. Beijing.
The Chinese team, ranked 32nd in the world, will face Canada, Germany and the United States in group play, making it very unlikely to advance. But the host countries regularly enjoy the privilege of participating in every sport, and China’s possible boycott from one of the most popular Winter Games events threatened to tarnish the athletic résumés that the country painstakingly maintained. Is.
Although China has turned itself into a force in the Summer Games – it finished second in medal count at the Tokyo Olympics this year – its efficiency in the Winter Team Games is less sterling. And whatever limited China’s ambitions may be in men’s hockey in September, when the NHL said it would allow its players to participate in Beijing, it was time for China’s group-stage opponents to compete with the world’s best talent. That will clear the way for stocking the roster.
Tuesday’s announcement also eliminated any remaining chances that Norway, ranked 11th in the world, would enter the tournament as a replacement for China.
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It may, in the end, be months later by hockey leaders, who said in November that China would compete in the Olympics – and then indicated almost immediately that the team’s position was still weak.
Luke Tardiff, the new chairman of the ice hockey governing body, has repeatedly expressed concern about whether China will be able to keep pace with its opponents in Beijing.
“To see a team go down 15-0 is not good for anyone, neither for China nor for ice hockey,” Tariff told Agence France-Presse in September.
But Praise appeared to back down in November, issuing a statement saying, “To be clear, the IIHF is not going to remove the Chinese team from the Olympic Games.” At the time, Tarif said the federation would work with Chinese officials as “they work towards building up their team.”
He also stated that “a joint effort to evaluate the state of the team’s preparedness” would take place during two games of the Kunlun Red Star, a Chinese team in Russia’s Continental Hockey League with several players who had to compete for China. was expected to do. Games.
The Kunlun Red Star lost the first game 5–4 in overtime and then went down the second game 4–1. By then, Tarif had begun to revive concerns about the prospects of the Chinese team.
The federation did not elaborate on how, or why, it reached its conclusion this week that China would be allowed to compete, saying officials had “discussed the status of the Chinese men’s ice hockey team.” “
Chinese media, which had previously criticized speculation about the team’s cuts as unfair, reported the news without fanfare on Thursday morning.
“This is a rare opportunity to compete with the world’s top teams,” said an article on Internet platform Sohu in November. “The Chinese men’s ice hockey team can learn and improve from actual combat, which is not available in daily training.”
Much of China’s troubles stem from its strict rules on dual nationality, which other countries use to strengthen their teams in hockey and other sports. China’s refusal to recognize dual citizenship and its requirements for foreign-born naturalized athletes to compete under its flag has long limited its ability to make roster.
China’s women’s hockey team is also on track to participate in the Beijing Games. That team is ranked 20th in the world.
Steven Lee Myers Contributed to reporting.