Canadian immigration officials urged to fast-track Olympian's citizenship

- Posted in Canada by Dominicon 15 October 2012

Canada was eliminated in the first round
at the 2012 London Olympics.

Recently released documents show that Canadian immigration officials were urged to expedite an athlete's citizenship application in order for him to compete at the London Olympic Games.

In a letter sent to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's office some time before the August Games, the Canadian Olympic Committee urged the minister to grant Chinese-born table tennis player Eugene Zhen Wang, then-top ranked player in North America, his citizenship 'exceptionally early'.

“I am writing to you regarding Mr. Zhen Wang’s request for an exceptional early granting of Canadian citizenship,” reads the letter.

“The Canadian Olympic Committee supports Mr. Wang’s request and I am writing to confirm that Mr. Wang would be eligible to compete for Canada at the 2012 London Olympic Games if he is granted Canadian citizenship by July 4.”

Mr Wang had already competed as part of the Canadian national team at several competitions while he was in the country on a Canadian visa but had to sit out the Olympic trials while he awaited the outcome of his citizenship application.

The player was eventually granted citizenship on 4, July and managed to celebrate the event by playing Prime Minister Stephen Harper during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Alexis Pavlich, spokesperson for Mr Kenney, confirmed that the player's application was fast-tracked under a category known as 'five-four citizenship' which can be used 'to alleviate cases of special and unusual hardship or to reward services of an exceptional value to Canada.

"Many athletes have been granted this exemption because their intense, international training and competition schedules may preclude them from fulfilling certain requirements," said Ms Pavlich.

Canada was eventually knocked out of the London Games in the first round by Japan.

- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the Canadian Visa Bureau.