I've never been too concerned with consistency on matters of no consequence and this definitely falls in that area.
This article from today's WSJ pretty well sums up that sentiment as well as the Olympics...or China for that matter.
Jake Chelios Is American, Greek, Scottish, German and Irish. He’s Playing for the Chinese Hockey Team.
The son of NHL legend Chris Chelios is going by his Olympic name Jieke Kailaosi at the Beijing Games
BEIJING—It’s a team made up mostly of Americans and Canadians. They play professional hockey in Russia. They are coached by an Italian. They conduct their practices in English. Yet this week, they are representing China in the men’s hockey tournament at the Beijing Olympics.
How the host country managed to field a national team of mostly foreign nationals—despite International Olympic Committee rules that require competitors to be citizens of the country they represent—is one of the most closely guarded secrets of the Beijing Games.
Building this roster involved a Chinese affiliate in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, a creative interpretation of international hockey’s pandemic rules, and possibly some rule bending by Olympics organizers.
None of the bodies directly responsible for Team China’s hockey squad—the Chinese Olympic Committee, the International Ice Hockey Federation or the IOC—will respond to questions about the team’s large foreign contingent.
The 25-man China roster includes 17 skaters who either were born or spent their childhoods in North America and one from Russia. Fans of the National Hockey League may recognize Brandon Yip
, who played 174 games in the league. The most famous name belongs to Jake Chelios, the 28-year-old son of NHL legend Chris Chelios. While playing for China, however, he goes by Jieke Kailaosi.
“He’s American and very proud of it,” said Chris Chelios of his son in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “He wanted to play bad and I supported it 100%.”
Jake Chelios confirmed that he and several of his Team China teammates still have their American passports. When asked whether he had naturalized as a Chinese citizen, Chelios said, “I don’t think we’re supposed to comment on that.”
Team China’s coach Ivano Zanatta watches from the bench.
Chelios, Yip and others appear to be able to compete for Team China because of a loose interpretation of an esoteric rule in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Handbook. According to the rule, an athlete who changed his citizenship must “prove that he has participated for at least two consecutive hockey seasons and 16 consecutive months (480 days) in the national competitions of his new country after his 10th birthday” before competing for the new country.
Beijing-based Kunlun Red Star, the sole Chinese outpost in Russia’s KHL, had the Olympics in mind when it started actively recruiting skaters from North America in 2019. Many obliged, not necessarily because of the lure of the Olympics, but because their professional aspirations were languishing stateside. Across the ocean in the KHL, salaries were higher and the level of competition slightly steeper than in the American Hockey League, the NHL’s minors.
“If you’re not in the NHL, I truly believe you want to be in the KHL,” said goalkeeper Jeremy Smith, who said that he joined the team in 2019 because “it was the best move for my career.”
Smith, a native of Dearborn, Mich., said he wasn’t approached about joining Team China for the Beijing Games until 2021. During the Olympic tournament, he’s going by the name “Shimisi Jieruimi.” Chelios, who signed a two-year contract with Kunlun Red Star in May 2019, said the Olympics were part of the recruiting pitch.
“They did float the idea, but when you hear that and it’s three years away you kind of put it in the back of your mind and don’t think about it,” Chelios said.
When Chelios informed his father of the possibility in 2019, it struck the former All-Star as far-fetched.
“We are Greek on my side and Scottish, German, and Irish on my wife’s side,” said Chris Chelios, who raised his children in Chicago.
The 25-man China roster includes 17 skaters who either were born or spent their childhoods in North America and one from Russia.
By fulfilling their original contracts with Kunlun Red Star, Smith, Chelios and more than a dozen other foreign-born players would have easily hit the two-season threshold to qualify for China’s Olympic team. But because of the pandemic, the team didn’t actually spend the 2020-21 or 2021-22 seasons in China.
Once China implemented strict virus mitigation protocols that drastically curtailed cross-border travel, Kunlun Red Star owner Billy Ngok temporarily relocated the team to Mytishchi, a Russian town near Moscow. The team trained and played games there until Jan. 20, when they flew to Beijing and moved into the Olympic Village.
Under a strict interpretation of the IIHF rule, these months in quasi-exile in Russia wouldn’t count toward the players’ 480 days. However, due to the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic, the IIHF appears to have overlooked this technicality for Team China.
A spokesperson for the IIHF didn’t comment on how strictly it applied its rules, adding in an email that “when an athlete is registered in an Olympic event, the final passport control is conducted by the IOC not the IF [International Federation].”
Indeed, the foreign-born players on the Chinese men’s team must also satisfy Olympic eligibility requirements. According to Rule 41 of the Olympic Charter,
any athlete competing in the Games “must be a national of the country of the NOC [National Organizing Committee] which is entering such competitor.”
Most athletes who represent a country in the Olympics other than the one where they were born satisfy this requirement through dual citizenship. That is not possible in China, whose policy doesn’t recognize dual nationality. According to Kunlun Red Star’s website, seven of the foreign-born players have Chinese heritage and have “long-established dual national” status.
But Rule 41 also gives the IOC Executive Board the ability to make exceptions of a “general or individual nature” to its nationality rules. The IOC didn’t answer repeated questions about whether its Executive Board made an exception for Team China, reiterating the language of Rule 41 and deferring comment to the Chinese government.
The Chinese government and the Winter Sports Center of the General Administration of Sport of China didn’t respond to several inquiries from The Wall Street Journal about the nationality of players on the Chinese hockey team.
Kunlun Red Star didn’t just have a hand in building a stable of foreign-born players eligible to play for the Chinese Olympic team—it also undertook an extraordinary overhaul of its roster
to help Team China. Following the 2020-21 season, Ngok cut all but one
of the Russian players to make room for more than a dozen Chinese nationals with scant professional hockey résumés.
“When you see Chinese hockey players and KHL-level players, there’s a big gap,” Ivano Zanatta, coach of Team China and Kunlun Red Star, said in January.
In their first game of the group stage, Team China lost 8-0 to the U.S.
Ngok didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment. His roster makeover makes Team China the first Olympic men’s hockey team to hail exclusively from a single professional club. The team’s website called the upcoming 2021-22 season, “the greatest Challenge of China’s hockey history.”
That might have been an understatement: Kunlun Red Star won just eight of the 48 games it has played this season and allowed 198 goals—32% more than the next worst team in the KHL. In their first game of the group stage, Team China lost 8-0 to the U.S. Germany beat Team China 3-2 in team’s second game at the Games.
Not even an influx of North Americans could make Team China mighty.