2006 Worlds -- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

We have, from time to time, concluded our competition coverage with a quick review of "the good, the bad and the ugly" for events we have reported on. In recent years we have had less and less time to write up that recap, but at these Championships we have a special obligation to close with a parting look at the competition.

The Good

This was a well run competition, starting on time, and ending on schedule or a little early every day. The ending a little early, in particular, was a blessing on those busy days of the Menís and Ladies qualifying rounds.

The environment working in this arena (The Saddledome) was the best I have experienced in many years. The arena ushers and staff were the most friendly and helpful of any I have encountered in many years, anywhere in the world.

The audience here was enthusiastic and supportive of all the skaters. The atmosphere in the arena was as positive as one could hope for.

Free wireless networking in the press room! It is always a blessing when network connectivity is available in the press room. It greatly facilitates and improves the ability to cover an event. The LOC is not obligated to provide this; and if they do, to provide it for free as they did here. This was a major plus.  And the opening press reception;  that was first rate!

During the week, the team leader from Italy had $3020 of the teamís money stolen by a pickpocket. Within a day the people of Calgary donated enough to replace the loss.

Our favorite skates this week. Ladies: Cohen Short Program; Sokolova Short Program. (Whatís not to love about cupcake!) Miessner Free Skate. Men: Lambiel Free Skate, Joubert Free Skate, Oda Qualifying Free Skate. Pairs: Pang & Tong Free Skate, Inoue & Baldwin Free Skate. Dance Denkova & Staviski Free Dance. Drobiazko & Vanagas Free Dance.  Special mention to Morgan Matthews for both of her girls taking some air during the Free Dance.

The Bad

The champions here were all deserving, but seven of the twelve medalists at the Olympics did not participate; something that is always a risk in the Worlds that follows the Olympics. That opened up space for the next generation, but also diluted the overall quality of the skating. There were a lot of junior quality skaters and below in the qualifying rounds.  The Russian team will suffer the most from the absence of their top skaters. Without them here to earn places for next year, they will be sending a much smaller team to Tokyo next year.

Attendance was good by the standards of Worlds held in Europe or Japan, but was not a sellout, the past standard for Worlds in North American. In the finals, attendance was about double that at the recent Olympic Games, or better. Everyone, of course, is suffering from the declining popularity of skating that has attendances down everywhere. The lack of a sellout here in the land of the most devoted skating fans, however, including the finals, illustrates the seriousness of a problem that everyone marketing skating is grappling with.

Prices. Ticket prices were stratospheric, up to $950 Canadian for an all event ticket. Food service in the press room was pay as you go. Not unusual for competitions in Europe and Japan, so that's ok, but prices were in the "airport" price range. Arena concession stands were even more expensive. Itís now quite a financial commitment for the average person to attend a major skating event.

The Ugly

A column in the local newspaper that unfairly trashed the competition at the expense of this reporter. Now I know from first hand experience why people in the skating community tend not to trust the media, and why politicians are guarded in their comments even in private moments. For columnists with an axe to grind, what one says, what the columnist hears, and what the columnist ends up writing can apparently be three different things. A high ranking U.S. Figure Skating official who sometimes provides me information on the record always ends our conversations with "If you quote me please don't make me look like an idiot."  Now I know why.  Score me the sadder but wiser for this life lesson. A GoE of Ė3 for the columnist and the Calgary Herald, and a 2 point deduction to me for a fall.

Bottom line, we give this Worlds +2 for GoE and 8.0 for Program Components. Not perfect but pretty darn good.

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Copyright 2006 by George S. Rossano