Thanks to existing infrastructure and a last-minute push by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin -- who obviously is capable of marshaling resources in a hurry -- Moscow will host the world figure skating championships originally slated for Tokyo.
Among those slated to compete in the event, now scheduled for April 24 to May 1, are defending champions Mao Asada and Daisuke Takahashi of Japan, whose stricken country will still be in the earliest stages of recovering from the mind-boggling loss of life and property destruction caused by the March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami.
U.S. bronze medalist and first-time senior world team member Ross Miner called the decision to hold the world championships in a different location "the best possible outcome given the circumstances," and I have to agree -- not only for the sake of the athletes who qualified to skate, but also because there is a chance the event can serve a constructive purpose.
It's too soon to know what specific gestures might be made by the federation or individual athletes on behalf of Japan, but the opportunity to promote a good cause before a worldwide audience is huge.
"All of the athletes will have Japan on their minds, and the people we should have been skating in front of," said Miner, who trains in Boston.
Like the other members of the U.S. world team, Miner scaled back his training while he waited to see what the ISU would decide. It would have been ill-advised for the skaters to try to stay at peak intensity for weeks on end.
Tom Zakrajsek, who coaches U.S. men's champion Ryan Bradley and women's silver medalist Rachael Flatt at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, said he would build a new training "micro-cycle" for them to start Monday. "It's pretty consistent any time you're preparing for a major event," he said.
Flatt used the unanticipated downtime to break in a pair of new boots. She is entering Stanford University in the fall, and the delayed competition means she will have to miss freshman orientation week on campus in late April, but Zakrajsek said she is pleased to have the chance to skate.
The coach said he counseled patience over the last two weeks, reminding his athletes that the delay was a mere inconvenience for them compared with the true hardships in Japan. "The people going into the radiation, or rescuing people in the freezing cold, that’s something to complain about," Zakrajsek said.
Olympic and world ice dancing silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White have bowed out of their planned stint with the Stars on Ice tour next month in order to prepare for worlds in Moscow, where they have a chance to become the first-ever U.S. team to win a world championship in their discipline.
"The last couple of weeks have been difficult, not knowing how to plan our training but also how to organize the rest of our endeavors as well -- vacations, shows, and everything else in our lives," Davis said. "It's been a long season already. Our sport is so physically and mentally demanding, and psyching ourselves up for another month of that is a challenge.
"It's different, but it’s going to be different for everybody."