Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Requirements for Changing Nationalities

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

There were rumors earlier this year about Slovak ski racer Adam Zampa changing countries. Russia was supposedly recruiting him for its team. Anna Fenninger's strife with the Austrian Ski Federation also led to rumors about her switching nationalities. What are the exact rules for allowing ski racers to compete for other countries? Well, dear readers, you are in luck because we planned to do a follow-up to the Anna Fenninger versus the OeSV drama by explaining the rules for switching nationalities. One of our intrepid reporters was at International Ski Federation (FIS) headquarters in Switzerland, where he happened to run into our friend Bob, who is also our contact at the FIS. Let's find out what Bob has to say.

BB: Bob, it's good to see you again. What have you been doing lately?
Bob: As you know I was part of the committee that investigated the Freedonian Olympic Ski Team. After that fact-finding mission, I was assigned to media relations. My experience talking to you  Blickbild reporters helped me to get that position. 
BB: It's nice to see that we are good for something. (short pause) We are here to find out the exact procedure for a ski racer to change nationalities. For example, if Anna Fenninger or Adam Zampa had problems with their federations, could they easily switch countries?
Bob: The short answer would be no. According to the Big Book of Rules, there are two options. There is one set of rules if the federation releases the athlete and another if the federation refuses to release the athlete.
BB: Let's start with the federation not releasing the athlete.
Bob: The racer would have to take a year off from competition. When he comes back, he will start off with zero points and get the same start numbers as a World Cup rookie.
BB: So the athlete would not be allowed to race at all?
Bob: Not in any FIS-sanctioned races. A year off means a year off.
BB: What about other races, for example a ski school race? Can the athlete compete in a local ski school race?
Bob: Technically yes. The Big Book of Rules only says no FIS races. But imagine how demoralizing it would be for a child in a beginners' ski school class to be racing against Anna Fenninger or Adam Zampa. I don't think that too many ski instructors would allow that.
BB: What about being a forerunner for a World Cup race? Men are currently allowed to forerun women's races and vice versa.
Bob: I will have to look again at the Big Book of Rules. Being a forerunner is not the same as racing, so I would imagine that should technically be okay. I do see the FIS frowning on athletes who are forerunning races when they are supposed to be taking the year off. It defeats the purpose of taking a year off.
BB: I get the impression that you believe that a ski racer should be taking his year off sitting on the couch, eating junk food, and watching TV or playing video games. Injured athletes are allowed to train, so why shouldn't someone who is taking a year off because his federation would not release him?
Bob: There is a difference between a ski racer taking a year off to recover from an injury and one who decides to change nationalities because of a dispute with his federation. If we were not so strict, then national ski teams would be like English Premier League football clubs where most of the players are not actually English. Can you imagine the Austrian Power team with just a few Austrians and the rest of the team from all of the other FIS member countries? That would not be proper at all.
BB: To sum it up, if a federation won't release the athlete, then the athlete must take a year off and be a sofa skier the whole time. Now what are the options if the national federation releases the athlete?
Bob: There are three options: 1) The athlete must get a passport from the new country; 2) The athlete must have a parent or grandparent from the new country; or 3) The athlete must reside in the new country for at least two years.
BB: Those requirements bring up a lot of questions. Let's start with the residency requirement. Suppose Adam Zampa decided to compete for Russia and moved there with the intention of staying for two years so he could join the team. Could he get a two-for-one discount, or a family discount, on the residency rule if his brother Andreas joined him? In other words, if the Slovak Ski Federation throws Andreas in the deal between Adam and the Russians, would the FIS allow them one year apiece instead of two?
Bob: No. It must be two years per ski racer. There are no two-for-one or family discounts.
BB: Fair enough. What about racers who want to compete for a fictional country? Our readers know the story of the Freedonian Olympic Ski Team.
Bob: The FIS is not the International Olympic Committee. We have enough member nations. I'm sure you noticed that the Freedonians did not compete in any World Cup races or the FIS World Championships. It would be the same for anyone who wants to compete for a fictional nation.
BB: Anna Fenninger was recruited to compete for the planet Zorkon in the Andromeda Galaxy. Assuming the Austrian Federation releases her, how could she possibly meet the two-year residency rule?
Bob: She would have to live either on Zorkon or on one of its colonies.
BB: That would be rather difficult because the Andromeda Galaxy is almost 3 million light years away. Does being on a Zorkonian space ship, or one from another planet, that is stationed on Earth count toward the residency requirement? After all, the space ship is property of that particular planet and therefore could be considered a colony.
Bob: I think you are getting too much into semantics and technicalities.
BB: Not really. A US military base in another country is considered to be part of the States. So why wouldn't a space ship from a distant planet be its sovereign territory on Earth?
Bob: I see your point about Anna satisfying the residency requirement by living in a space ship somewhere in Austria. But that sure sounds like it would really be bending the rules. It looks like we will have to add a provision about alien space ships to the Big Book of Rules. 
BB: What about a ski racer from Zorkon, or another planet? How could he get an FIS racing license?
Bob: The latest Big Book of Rules applies only to Earthlings. But someone from another planet would have to pick a country on Earth, live there for two years, and then apply for a racing license. So far no space aliens that we know of have applied for an FIS racing license. When one does, we will have to modify the Big Book of Rules to deal with that situation.
BB: Assuming that an alien space ship is considered property of another planet, the space aliens would actually have to live outside the ship to establish residency.
Bob: Right. The space aliens would have to actually live in the sponsoring country and not in their spacecraft.
BB: What about racers who train with other countries? For example Tina Weirather trains with the Swiss team and Veronika Velez-Zuzulova trains with the French. Does the time spent in the country of training count toward the residency requirement?
Bob: No, except in the case of Norway and Sweden. Every time a racer eats ojlmsfjaegger in Norway or surstroemming in Sweden without flinching or making disgusted faces, he gets 6 months credit toward his residency.
BB: What if a racer competes in another country's national championship?
Bob: That happens all the time. A racer doesn't get residency credit for winning another country's national championship race. In fact, he would probably be run out of town by angry natives with pitchforks and torches for daring to beat the skiers from that country.
BB: If a racer simply needs to get a passport from a sponsoring country, wouldn't that encourage a black market in passports to get around the residency requirement?
Bob: We thought of that and are developing technology to root out fake passports. If we at the FIS can tell that someone is wearing an arm protector over her speed suit instead of underneath it, then we can surely figure out how to tell a fake passport from a real one.
BB: Another option is having a parent or grandparent from the sponsoring country. During the Cold War, Slovakia was part of Czechoslovakia, which was part of the Soviet Bloc. Could Adam Zampa get around the Russian residency and passport requirements because his parents and grandparents were from a country that was in the Soviet sphere of influence?
Bob: Nice try, but unfortunately not. Czechoslovakia was part of the East Bloc, but it was an independent country.
BB: What if you have a grandparent from a country that you never set foot in? For example, if I have a Lithuanian grandparent, but have never been to Lithuania, could I still compete on its national team as a World Cup ski racer?
Bob: Yes. That is correct.
BB: Yet space aliens must meet the two-year requirement or the sponsoring country's rules for obtaining a passport?
Bob: Yes.
BB: Let's see if I understand this. You have an Earthling and a space alien who have never been to a country that they probably can't even find on a map. The Earthling has a grandparent from that country, so he can compete on its national team. The space alien must live in that country and wait two years to compete as a ski racer.
Bob: That is absolutely correct.
BB: Don't you think that the FIS is discriminating against beings from other planets? 
Bob: No. Everyone must follow the same rules, no matter their planetary origin.
BB: But you have different rules for Earthlings and space aliens. That sounds like a clear case of discrimination to me. I'm surprised that the FIS hasn't been sued by someone from another planet. 
Bob: You can't say that because we have nothing in the Big Book of Rules that covers those from other planets.
BB: Bob, you just contradicted yourself. First you said that space aliens must follow the same procedures as Earthlings to switch nationalities or planets. Then you said that there are no rules for space aliens and that you must modify the Big Book of Rules when one applies for an FIS racing license. Which is it?
Bob: You're not as friendly as the reporters from other publications. They never ask questions about space aliens or think that we discriminate against them. Anyway, the FIS is always right, even when it's wrong!
BB: Of course it is. Well, it looks like we are out of time. Bob, I want to thank you for another enlightening interview. I'm sure our readers now understand what it takes for a ski racer to ski for a different country or planet.  I also hope that the FIS modifies the Big Book of Rules so that space aliens are included. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

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