China will take part in the Olympic men's ice hockey tournament at the Beijing Games despite concerns that the host nation will be embarrassed competitively by established hockey nations.
China is currently seeded in Group A with top-ranked Canada, the U.S. and Germany. Although China is the No. 12 seed in the Olympic tournament, it is ranked 32nd in the world. China earned an automatic spot as the host nation, a tradition that dates back to the 2006 Olympics in Italy.
The International Ice Hockey Federation council reaffirmed China's status in the tournament during its three-day meeting in Zurich that concluded Tuesday.
"To be clear, the IIHF is not going to remove the Chinese team from the Olympic Games, the status of the men's national team as a host nation participant in the Olympic ice hockey tournament was confirmed by Congress and remains unchanged," IIHF president Luc Tardif said via the IIHF website. "We are working with the CIHA [Chinese Ice Hockey Association] to confirm their player eligibility according to IIHF rules, and we will continue to assist them as they work towards preparing their team for the Olympic Games."
It was Tardif who sounded the alarm over China's participation in the 2022 Winter Olympic men's hockey tournament. He said in September that China had an "insufficient sporting standard" in men's hockey and expressed concern about how badly its team could be beaten in pool play
"Watching a team being beaten 15-0 is not good for anyone, not for China, or for ice hockey," he said, adding that swapping China for Norway, which missed the Olympic cut, was in consideration.
The IIHF and the CIHA plan to schedule two games with the national team players "in a joint effort to evaluate the status of the team's preparations" for Beijing 2022. Eligible national team players will be evaluated while playing for the Kunlun Red Star of the Kontinental Hockey League.
Kunlun is based in China but has played this season entirely in Russia due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kunlun is 5-16 in regulation with one shootout win, one shootout loss and one overtime loss this season. It has a minus-39 goal differential.
The IIHF and the CIHA will observe games on Nov. 15 and 17 featuring eligible national team players, and then the IIHF council will reconvene "to discuss the next steps forward."