April 16, 2014 (ISN) – A petition has been set up calling for the resignation of International Skating Union (ISU) President Ottavio Cinquanta in light of the “severe damage he is inflicting on the sport”.
The petition focuses particularly on figure skating and was begun by four “disenfranchised members of the skating community” consisting of two former skaters in the ex-world champion and Olympic silver medalist Tim Wood and the five-time US pairs silver medalist Bill Fauver, as well as technical specialist Tim Gerber and journalist Monica Friedlander.
It begins by insisting that Italy’s Cinquanta, who has headed the ISU since 1994, has presided over “the most dramatic decline in the popularity of figure skating in the sport’s history”, before adding that “it is time for him to resign”.
It claims that Cinquanta is a “speed skater who, by his own admission, does not understand figure skating, and in fact shows no appreciation for its artistic side”.
Among the specific criticisms then cited are problems continuing to affect the judging system, an issue that has dogged Cinquanta throughout his tenure, with a petition protesting the results of the ladies’ competition at Sochi 2014 gaining more than two million supporters and an official complaint from the South Korean Olympic Committee.
After defending champion Kim Yu-Na was surprisingly beaten by Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova, it emerged that one of the nine judges, Ukraine’s Yuri Balkov, had previously been suspended for a year after being recorded trying to fix an event at Nagano 1998.
Another judge, Alla Shekhovtseva, is the wife of the former President and current general director of the Russian Figure Skating Federation, Valentin Piseev.
The petition also criticised a series of “radical changes” proposed by Cinquanta last month, and in particular, plans to abolish the short programme section of figure skating competitions.
It concludes by arguing that, so long as Cinquanta remains in office, “figure skating remains mired in incompetence and corruption”.
“Fans are deserting the sport in droves, competitions are often held in near-empty arenas, most shows have folded, television ratings crashed, the once-thriving professional scene has disappeared, and the sport fails to produce stars to inspire the young and attract fans,” it claims.
“In short the financial viability of the sport is at severe risk.”
Cinquanta plans to step down from his post in 2016, by which time he will be 78, although the petition claims that according to the ISU constitution, Cinquanta’s term is supposed to end in June this year due to an age requirement deeming him ineligible for re-election.
But although these concerns are shared by a proportion of the skating community, the Italian also has much support and the fact the petition has only garnered 3,146 supporters since being set up earlier this month, illustrates that the criticism is far from universal.
The ISU are yet to officially respond to the petition.