USA Luge has seen its flagship World Cup stop in Lake Placid, New York, taken off the calendar by the International Luge Federation for the second year in a row after the FIL cited difficulty getting foreign athletes into the country during the pandemic.
The planned World Cup stops in Lake Placid along with Whistler, British Columbia, will both be held instead at the 2014 Sochi Olympic track in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, in late November and early December. The World Cup season will begin at the new track built for the 2022 Beijing Olympics on November 19.
There will be no World Cup events in bobsled, skeleton and luge in North America for a second consecutive season. Lake Placid lost a planned World Cup luge stop last season, as well as last winter’s world bobsled and skeleton championships, because of the pandemic.
USA Luge said the move out of Lake Placid stems from the inability of Russia and Georgia to get visa appointments, having set a deadline of August 11 so the two teams would travel to the U.S.
“The FIL was requiring a letter from USA Luge, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee or the State Department guaranteeing visa appointments for the Russian and Georgian teams by an imposed deadline of Aug. 10,” said USA Luge Chief Executive Officer Jim Leahy. “During COVID, most American embassies around the world closed and are now just beginning to reopen. The current protocol at the embassies with regard to appointments for visas is to prioritize those living in that country to apply for an appointment. With the U.S. Embassy in Russia closed due to political reasons, we tried through multiple channels over several weeks to get the Russians appointments at the American embassies in Latvia, Italy and Germany, but those efforts were fruitless as they are not residents of those countries. We also tried the Ukraine, but due to political reasons there, that U.S. embassy was not even an option for the Russians. The Georgians had the option in the Ukraine, but again since they are not residents, no appointment was possible by the FIL deadline. Our organization exhausted every possibility right up to the deadline.”
USA Luge also said the financial cost for the FIL to provide air charter service from Germany to Beijing to Vancouver to New York and back to Germany over the first five World Cup stops of the season was $2 million with a 50 percent deposit due August 11.
“Now it’s the pandemic and other issues, all non-athletic, that will prevent our athletes from having a home race in front of their families, friends and fans,” said Leahy. “It also negatively impacts our personal engagement with team sponsors and suppliers who would attend, may possibly keep us off NBC, eliminates key media coverage we would receive just two months prior to Beijing and ultimately does nothing to help grow the sport of luge in the U.S.”
The decision by the FIL for this year’s events means USA Luge will spend all of November and almost all of December overseas. It starts fall training in September in Sochi, Russia, before a camp in Lillehammer, Norway, at the 1994 Olympic course. USA Luge plans to have training in Lake Placid in mid-October before a trip starting October 20 at the 2002 Olympic course in Park City, Utah.