London lands synchro worlds

ERIC BENDER -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:21 AM ET

Because London is in the "heartland" of synchronized skating in Canada, it has landed the 2007 world championships.

Skate Canada vice-president Bill Boland made the announcement yesterday at the John Labatt Centre, which will be the venue for the March 29 to April 1 event.

"This is the heartland of synchronized skating," Boland said. "London and Ilderton clubs and those all the way down to Windsor."

London also won the international event because of the success of the Canadian figure skating championships at the JLC in January 2005.

"That influenced the decision," said John Winston, London's general manager of tourism. There was no bidding process.

Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco said London is again pleased "to open our doors to the world."

More than 500 skaters plus their coaching crews on 21 teams from 18 countries are expected and could bring 14,000 spectators, 60 per cent of which would be from outside this area. The economic spinoff was not specified.

Officials said synchronized skating, which has advanced in sophistication in the last five years, brings a rollicking cadre of national team supporters from around the world who wear native costumes, carry flags and bring cheering devices such as Swiss cow bells.

London was the first host to national synchronized skating in Canada when the then unsanctioned sport was held at the University of Western Ontario's Thompson arena in 1983. The championships were also here in 1984.

Only two other North American cities, Minneapolis and Ottawa, have hosted the international championships.

"It's an advantage to compete at home without jet lag and (strange) food," said M.K. Phelps, a member of the Skate Canada national team Black Ice, based in Toronto. She was impressed with the JLC. Practices will be held at Western Fair's four-pad complex.

Phelps said synchro teams are being cut to 16 from 20 members in an effort to have the sport recognized as an Olympic competition. Fewer members, she said, make teams more manageable and easier to house.

"We hope it will be an Olympic demonstration sport in 2010," at the Winter Games in B.C., she said.

Tickets for the 2007 championships go on sale at the JLC Sept. 18, with family packs ranging from $25 to $40.

Meanwhile, London's board of control has recommended the city back a bid to host the 2008 world under-17 hockey challenge in partnership with Lucan, Stratford, Strathroy, St. Thomas and Woodstock.

If council approves the recommendation Monday and the bid succeeds, it would entail an up-front cost of $50,000.

City staff have assured councillors that previous tournaments have made money.

The under-17 tournament is played during the last week of December and first week of January.


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