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|| News Item: Posted 1999-02-19

The Iceman Cometh
A report on the U.S. Figure Skating Championships

By Robert Hanashiro

I just returned from 8 days in Salt Lake City covering the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and I must admit it was a welcome relief from the usual football and basketball. While there were few surprises in the competition (Michelle Kwan and Michael Weiss won gold medals in their respective categories), what was surprising was the turnouts and coverage. Small crowds throughout the week (even the ladies finals had just half a house) were not helped by the timing of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee release of their ethics reports laying blame for the bribery charges that have soiled Salt Lake City's reputation. I think most people in Utah are so tired of hearing ANYTHING connected with the Olympics that one of the backlashes was the small ticket sales for the U.S.'s premiere figure skating event. (Though $20 for a cheap seat also may have been a factor.) USFSA officials quietly grumbled about SLOC releasing the report on the same day the senior competition started, which basically gobbled up all of the headlines and TV time for the next several days.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro/USA Today

Photo by Robert Hanashiro/USA Today
Photo positions in the Delta Center were disappointing to say the least; however, most of the blame may be given to ABC which held the broadcast rights to the events. There were NO photo positions near the "kiss and cry" area, leaving shooters to either slap on a converter and shoot (very loose) from across the rink (and through two TV cameramen and a field producer) or shoot overhead from the stands. Originally only one photo position was marked, just to one side of the judges platform, but a second "endzone" ice level (opposite end of the rink form the (kiss and cry") spot was added when the competition started. An ABC producer reminded photographers every day that we were to wear black so we wouldn't distract their cameras from the all black background the network had hung completely around the ice, 20 feet high. This was laughable because ABC personnel were wearing white sweatshirts, t-shirts and colored clothing and also were walking around at ice level while the skater were performing.

The all black background also proved somewhat controversial with many skaters, including Michelle Kwan, who commented that it made depth perception and judging her position on the ice difficult. With the low turnout and skaters not that enamored with the Delta Center, it looks like SLOC may make the smaller E Center in suburban Salt Lake City the figure skating venue and make the Delta Center the primary ice hockey site for the 2002 Olympics.

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