Figure skating-Finland replaces Russia as host of Grand Prix event

(Reuters) – Finland will stage a round of the Grand Prix of Figure Skating series after Russia was removed as a host following its invasion of Ukraine, the International Skating Union (ISU) said.

The Nov. 25-27 event will be held in the Finnish city of Espoo, the ISU said on Thursday, as the last of the six regular Grand Prix events in the 2022-23 programme.

In April, the ISU banned Russia and Belarus from hosting international skating events and after the invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”. Belarus is a key staging area for the invasion.

The governing body had earlier excluded skaters from Russia and Belarus from international competitions after the International Olympic Committee recommended sports federations to ban athletes and officials from the two countries.

Russia is a dominant force in figure skating and had hosted its Grand Prix event, known as the Rostelecom Cup, every year since 1996.

The ISU also said the Cup of China event, the fourth round of the series, has been cancelled for the second straight year due to the “deteriorating COVID-19 sanitary situation” in the country. No replacement host has been confirmed for the Nov. 11-13 event.

“The Chinese Skating Association (CSA) informed the ISU that it was no longer feasible for them to hold the annual ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating event (the Cup of China) in 2022,” it added.

The United States, Canada, France and Japan will stage the other four Grand Prix events while Turin, Italy will host the Final from Dec. 8-11.

(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Hyderabad; Editing by Kim Coghill)