Figure skaters will be getting early wake-up calls at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
International Skating Union President Ottavio Cinquanta confirmed exclusively to Globetrotting that all competitions will begin at 10 a.m. at the 2018 Pyeongchang, South Korea, Winter Games. Day-of-competition final practice will be earlier in the morning.
With the 14-hour time difference from New York in the winter, that will put the events in prime time in North America. It will not be as favorable for Japan, where the sport's popularity now is the highest in the world.
Speaking by telephone from his home in Milan, Italy, Cinquanta said the scheduling change would apply to all the disciplines. He said "the Americans" had requested morning starts.
Globetrotting learned the scheduling change was discussed at a recent world broadcasters meeting in South Korea.
The pairs free skate at this year's European Championships also had a 10 a.m. start, which bothered many skaters.
"It was a very hard start to the day," said Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar, who won the gold with partner Maxim Trankov. "We had early practice then we stayed here in the rink because we had no time to go to the hotel. Because of this situation, our skating was not the best, but it was not bad."
Severin Kiefer of Austria said it was "dangerous skating at this time" after finishing ninth with partner Miriam Ziegler.
"It's really not a great time to be skating a pairs free program," Kiefer said. "I think all the couples agree."
This is not the first time Olympic events in Asia have been moved to the morning primarily for the benefit of U.S. broadcaster NBC, which pays the International Olympic Committee significantly higher rights fees than any other national or area broadcaster.
All track and field final sessions and some swimming finals at the 1988 Seoul, South Korea Summer Games began in the morning. So did all the swimming finals at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.
“It would be premature for us to comment at this time given that the Pyeongchang schedule is still a work in progress,” an NBC spokesman said.