International Skating Union
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|Founded||July 23, 1892
in Scheveningen 
|Headquarters||Avenue Juste-Olivier 17
|Vice president(s)||1st Vice-President
|Operating income||CHF 35.6 million (2018)|
The International Skating Union (ISU) is the international governing body for competitive ice skating disciplines, including figure skating, synchronized skating, speed skating, and short track speed skating. It was founded in Scheveningen, Netherlands, in July 1892, making it one of the oldest international sport federations. The ISU was formed to establish standardized international rules and regulations for the skating disciplines it governs, and to organize international competitions in these disciplines. It is now based in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The International Skating Union (ISU) - originally internationale Eislauf Vereinigung in the German language - was founded in 1892 in the Dutch seaside town of Scheveningen. Fifteen men, as the national association representatives from the Netherlands, Great Britain, Germany/Austria and two clubs from Stockholm (Sweden) and Budapest (Hungary) attended the meeting. It was the first international winter sports federation to govern speed skating and figure skating, as it laid down the rules for speed skating, shortly followed by figure skating. In 1895, the ISU streamlined its mission to deal only with amateur competitors and not professionals. The organization hosted its first amateur skating championship in February 1896 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The United States and Canada formed a competing organization, the International Skating Union of America (ISUA), in 1907. Within the next two years, twelve European nations had joined the ISU, and the ISUA had only its original members. The ISUA folded in 1927.
European and North American figure skaters rarely competed against each other due to differences in their styles of skating. The ISU had "systematized and arranged" the sport of figure skating, with competitions including "a selection of ten or twelve numbers from the I. S. U. programme, ... five minutes' free skating to music, ... [and] special figures" on one foot. In 1911, Canada joined the ISU, leaving the United States as the only major competitor to not be a member. This changed in 1923, when the United States Figure Skating Association joined the ISU and in 1926, Japanese sport governing body followed to acquire the membership.
At first, ISU World and European Speed Skating and Figure Skating Championships emerged and in 1924, both disciplines were included in the official program of the first Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix. The discipline of ice dancing was introduced at the Innsbruck Games in 1976. After 1945, the ISU slowly continued to grow with accession of members from other countries in Europe, Oceania and (South) Africa.
In 1967, the ISU added the Short Track Speed Skating, conducting the first official ISU World Championships in 1981. In 1992, the discipline became part of the official Olympic program. Events hosted by the ISU in 1976–1980 were held under different names and retrospectively, have received the status of World Championships. At the time, the sport was known as indoor speed skating, but it was renamed short-track when indoor rinks for the longer speed skating events were introduced.
By 1988, 38 nations had joined the ISU. Within the next few years, the ISU abandoned one of its long-held practices, eliminating the use of mandatory figures in the singles' figure skating competitions and reducing their use in ice dancing.
After the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, the ISU implemented sweeping changes to many of its events. In one of the short track speed skating events, Apolo Anton Ohno was awarded the gold medal after the disqualification of Kim Dong-Sung. Although the South Korean delegation protested the disqualification, ISU rules did not allow for a review of the official's call. Several months later, the ISU approved the use of video replay, when available, to review referee decisions. The rules for judging figure skating were also changed as the result of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games figure skating scandal. According to Ottavio Cinquanta, former president of the ISU, "'Something was wrong there,' ... 'Not just the individual but also the system. It existed for 70 years. Now we are trying to replace one system with another.'" A new figure skating judging system took effect in 2005, eliminating the 6.0 system perfect scores and instead giving points for various technical elements.
Since the 2000s, the ISU has experienced a new wave of expansion, with several countries in Asia and Latin America joining the organization.
In addition to sanctioning other international competitions, the ISU designates the following competitions each year as "ISU Championships":
Long track speed skating
Short track speed skating
First world championships
Dates and locations of first world championships in various disciplines held under the auspices of the ISU:
- 1893: Speed skating (men only), Amsterdam
- 1896: Figure skating (men only), St. Petersburg
- 1906: Figure skating (ladies), Davos
- 1908: Figure skating (pairs), St. Petersburg
- 1936: Speed skating (women), Stockholm
- 1952: Figure skating (ice dance), Paris
- 1970: Sprint speed skating, West Allis, Wisconsin
- 1978: Short track speed skating, Solihull, UK
- 2000: Synchronized skating, Minneapolis
Cooperation with other sports
ISU has an agreement with Federation of International Bandy to use the same arenas. The cooperation between the two federations is increasing, since both have an interest in more indoor venues with large ice surfaces being built.
The ISU is an international sport federation recognised by the International Olympic Committee as the body globally administering figure skating and speed skating sports with the following disciplines: Speed skating, Single & Pair skating, Ice dance, Short track speed skating, and Synchronized skating. Whereas the individual national associations administer these sports at the national level, all international matters are under the sole jurisdiction and control of the ISU.
There was an attempt to set up an alternative association to replace the ISU for governing and promoting figure skating throughout the world. In March 2003, a group of several former figure skating champions (who at the time were still practicing as coaches, judges, referees) announced the creation of a new international governing body for figure skating, the World Skating Federation ("WSF"). This attempt ultimately failed.
ISU is organized as an association pursuant to Swiss laws (art. 60 of Swiss Civil Code). It has its own legal identity and falls under the jurisdiction of Switzerland. Articles of Association define ISU's purpose as
The objectives of the ISU are regulating, governing and promoting the sports of Figure and Speed Skating and their organized development on the basis of friendship and mutual understanding between sportsmen.The ISU shall work for broadening interest in Figure and Speed Skating sports by increasing their popularity, improving their quality and increasing the number of participants throughout the world. The ISU shall ensure that the interests of all ISU Members are observed and respected.
The ISU Statutes consist of the ISU Constitution including its Procedural Provisions, and ISU General Regulations setting out framework principles. More detailed provisions are contained in Special Regulations and Technical Rules for Single & Pair Skating and Ice Dance, Synchronized Skating Speed Skating, and Short Track Speed Skating. The ISU Code of Ethics, the ISU Anti-Doping Rules, and ISU Anti-Doping Procedures contain further guidelines. Additional provisions and updates can also be found in ad-hoc published ISU Communications.
The members of the ISU are the individual national associations whose task is to administer figure and speed skating on ice at the national level. Members are typically composed of skating clubs and athletes are individual members of those clubs. As of 20 February 2020, the International Skating Union counts 98 members.
The highest-ranking body of the ISU is the ISU Congress. It consists of the ISU members, which meet once every two years for an ordinary meeting. Ordinary resolutions are passed by a simple majority of votes of ISU Members represented and voting at a Congress. Proposals require a two-thirds majority of ISU Members in favor in order to be accepted.
Since ISU's inception in 1892, 58 ordinary meetings in total were organized.
- 1892 - Netherlands, Scheveningen
- 1895 - Denmark, Copenhagen
- 1897 - Sweden, Stockholm
- 1899 - United Kingdom, London
- 1901 - Deutsches Reich, Berlin
- 1903 - Hungary, Budapest
- 1905 - Denmark, Copenhagen
- 1907 - Sweden, Stockholm
- 1909 - Netherlands, Amsterdam
- 1911 - Austria, Vienna
- 1913 - Hungary, Budapest
- 1921 - Netherlands, Amsterdam
- 1923 - Denmark, Copenhagen
- 1925 - Switzerland, Davos
- 1927 - France, Bagnères-de-Luchon
- 1929 - Norway, Oslo
- 1931 - Austria, Vienna
- 1933 - Czech Republic, Prag
- 1935 - Sweden, Stockholm
- 1937 - Switzerland, St.Moritz
- 1939 - Netherlands, Amsterdam
- 1947 - Norway, Oslo
- 1949 - France, Paris
- 1951 - Denmark, Copenhagen
- 1953 - Italy, Stresa
- 1955 - Switzerland, Lausanne
- 1957 - Austria, Salzburg
- 1959 - France, Tours
- 1961 - Norway, Bergen
- 1963 - Finland, Helsinki
- 1965 - Austria, Vienna
- 1967 - Netherlands, Amsterdam
- 1969 - United Kingdom, Maidenhead
- 1971 - Italy, Venice
- 1973 - Denmark, Copenhagen
- 1975 - Germany, Munich
- 1977 - France, Paris
- 1980 - Switzerland, Davos
- 1982 - Norway, Stavanger
- 1984 - United States, Colorado Springs
- 1986 - Austria, Velden am Wörther See
- 1988 - Switzerland, Davos
- 1990 - New Zealand, Christchurch
- 1992 - Switzerland, Davos
- 1994 - United States, Boston
- 1996 - Switzerland, Davos
- 1998 - Sweden, Stockholm
- 2000 - Canada, Quebec
- 2002 - Japan, Kyoto
- 2004 - Netherlands, Scheveningen
- 2006 - Hungary, Budapest
- 2008 - Monaco, Monaco
- 2010 - Spain, Barcelona
- 2012 - Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur
- 2014 - Ireland, Dublin
- 2016 - Croatia, Dubrovnik
- 2018 - Spain, Seville
- 2020 - Thailand, Phuket
The ISU Council constitutes the highest ISU body between two Congresses. It is the executive body of the ISU and is responsible for determining the policies of the ISU and deciding upon the general coordination of the ISU structure and strategy. The Council consists of the President, a Vice President, and five members for the Figure Skating Branch and a Vice President, and five members for the Speed Skating Branch.
The Council is assisted by the Director General and the ISU Secretariat. The Director General is responsible for the daily management of all business and financially related activities of the ISU and the operation of the Secretariat.
As of the summer of 2008, the ISU consisted of 63 member nations, with a governing council of 11. To add any proposal to the agenda of meetings, it must have support from four-fifths of the members. Proposals on the agenda are approved with a two-thirds majority vote.
Presidents of the ISU
- 1892–1895 Netherlands, Pim Mulier
- 1895–1925 Sweden, Viktor Balck
- 1925–1937 Sweden, Ulrich Salchow
- 1937–1945 Netherlands, Gerrit W. A. van Laer
- 1945–1953 United Kingdom, Herbert J. Clarke
- 1953–1967 Switzerland, James Koch
- 1967–1967 Austria, Ernst Labin
- 1967–1980 France, Jacques Favart
- 1980–1994 Norway, Olaf Poulsen
- 1994–2016 Italy, Ottavio Cinquanta
- 2016–present Netherlands, Jan Dijkema
ISU Commissions and Committees
- ISU Disciplinary Commission
- ISU Athletes Commission
- ISU Medical Commission
- ISU Development Commission
- ISU Technical Committees.
The ISU Athletes Commission was introduced on the 56th ISU Ordinary Congress 2016 in Dubrovnik and represents Skaters’ positions within the ISU by providing advice to the ISU Council, Technical Committees, Sports Directors, Director General and other internal bodies.
The ISU Development Commission implements the ISU Development Program in accordance with the ISU policy and the approved budget.
The main functions of the ISU Technical Committees include the preparation, monitoring and maintenance of the Technical Rules. The following Technical Committees are established: Single and Pair Skating, Ice Dance, Synchronized Skating, Speed Skating and Short Track Speed Skating.
ISU's role as an international sports federation involves setting the rules to ensure proper governance of sport, notably in terms of the health and safety of the athletes and the integrity of competitions. Similar to many international sports federations, ISU adopted eligibility rules. Under the ISU eligibility rules, skaters participating in competitions that are not approved by the ISU face severe penalties up to a lifetime ban from all major international skating events.
Historically, only amateurs were allowed to qualify for the Olympic Games and in 1962, the IOC issued the Eligibility rules which specified that persons receiving remuneration and other material advantages for participation in sport were not eligible to compete in the Olympic Games. However, the concept of amateur sport developed over time, moving by the end of the 1980s towards professionalisation. Respecting the Olympic principles, the ISU rules made a difference in treatment of amateur and professional skaters wishing to qualify for the Olympic Games. In 1986, the limitations imposed on professional skaters were removed and the categories of "eligible" and "ineligible" persons were introduced to replace the concepts of "amateurs" and "professionals". In 1998, Eligibility rules established a comprehensive pre-authorisation system by stipulating that eligible skaters could only take part in competitions approved by the ISU, and conducted under the ISU Regulations by ISU-approved officials. Under the 2014 Eligibility rules, the person who breached the Eligibility rules could not be reinstated. This resulted in a lifetime ban, since the loss of eligibility is not limited in time.
There were attempts of independent organisers to hold alternative speed skating events.
Icederby International co., Ltd sought to set up a series of events titled ‘Icederby Grand Prix’ scheduled to run for six consecutive years from 2014–2020. Run by a Korean event organiser, it offered unprecedented prize money to attract the world's best skaters. In 2011, Icederby International approached the ISU to enter into a partnership agreement and presented its action plan. Initially, Icederby included betting in connection with its planned Grand Prix in countries where betting was not prohibited. In January 2012, the ISU updated its Code of Ethics to rule out the participation in all forms of betting. Two years later, Icederby notified the ISU that no betting would be organised in connection with the planned Dubai Icederby Grand Prix as betting is illegal in Dubai. Nonetheless, the ISU did not authorise the Dubai Icederby Grand Prix 2014 and announced that all skaters who take part in the Icederby event would be subject to the lifetime ban established by the Eligibility rules. In consequence, Icederby decided not to organise the Dubai Icederby Grand Prix 2014 due to its difficulty to secure the participation of speed skaters.
Two professional speed skaters, Mark Tuitert and Niels Kerstholt, lodged a complaint and on 5 October 2015, the European Commission initiated formal antitrust proceedings into alleged anti-competitive restrictions imposed by the International Skating Union on athletes and officials' economic activities and alleged foreclosure of competing alternative sport event organisers.
On 20 October 2015, the ISU published the procedure for independent organisers to receive authorisation from the ISU Council. Under the 2016 Eligibility rules, the sanctions imposed on a skater participating in non-authorised events ranged from a warning to periods of ineligibility running from an unspecified minimum to a maximum of a lifetime.
In December 2017, the European Commission decided that ISU's eligibility rules breach EU competition laws. The Commission gave the ISU 90 days to amend the rules and did not impose a fine. The ISU disagreed with the decision, suspended the enforcement of the rules subject to the Commission decision, and put in place provisional rules. In addition, the ISU filed an appeal against the EU Commission decision pending before the EU General Court.
- Broadcast partnerships for world-wide media coverage of ISU Events;
- Sponsorship agreements;
- Contributions provided by the IOC for the Winter/ Youth Olympic Games; and
- Interest income earned from the ISU's financial assets.
In 2018, the ISU generated a worldwide consolidated turnover of CHF 35.6 million, as compared to CHF 36.9 million for the financial year 2017.
Whereas the situation regarding TV events appears to be relatively stable, the conclusion of sponsorship agreements becomes more challenging due to a highly competitive market environment. Thus, ISU has been unable to replace the Speed Skating Title Sponsor with a similarly lucrative agreement. Also, as ISU Members in China and the Republic of Korea were, for different reasons, unable to host ISU Short Track Speed Skating Events during the 2018/19 season, the ISU was also unable to maintain sponsorship agreements in those countries.
As the ISU sport disciplines significantly contribute to the success of the Olympic Winter Games, the ISU can also continue to rely on substantial amounts provided by the IOC. After the successful 2018 Olympic Winter Games (OWG) in South Korea, these incomes have increased as compared to the 2014 OWG in Sochi and are again close to the level of the 2010 OWG of Vancouver.
To ensure a substantial annual interest income independent from commercial partners’ interests, the ISU employs a long-standing conservative investment policy. The interest income on high-rated bonds from Credit Suisse, Banque Cantonale Vaudoise, and UBS accrued at the end of the financial year 2018 amounted to CHF 1.44 million.
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