Skating into oblivion

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

LOS ANGELES -- The idea, in the first place, was to bring the World Figure Skating Championships here to add some Hollywood glitter and glamour.

The concept was to bring the sequined show to the Staples Centre to give the sport - which imploded with the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games judges scandal involving Canada's Jamie Sale and David Pelletier - a doubleheader chance to become relevant in the U.S. again as the lead-in event to Vancouver 2010.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Instead it's turned out to be insane.

The International Stupid Union, as Ottavio Cinquanta's governing body of the sport has become known over the years for gross mismanagement and the out-of-control politics which created the cratering of the sport in the first place, has saddled the event which opens here today with start times which appear to make no sense to anybody.

We'd love, for example, to report on how Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison of Canada, bronze medal winners at Worlds last year in Goteborg, Sweden, did last night in the pairs short program, but they weren't scheduled to skate until 10:54 p.m. local time - 1:54 a.m. Eastern.

In Los Angeles, TV viewers will have to wait until today to watch the pairs short program - on the Oxygen cable network. Everything else will be seen on a three-hour delay. On Oxygen.

MAJOR NETWORK

The only event which will be shown on major network television will be the women's free skate final on Saturday which will be live in the east, but delayed here.

Last night's pairs short program did not end until 2:45 a.m. Eastern. The pairs final doesn't end until 2 a.m. Eastern tonight.

Patrick Chan could win a world championship here -- but it would be at 12:45 Eastern.

For Canada, what does it all mean?

"It might as well be in Asia," says Canada's high performance director Mike Slipchuk.

"It's on our own continent, but a lot of people are not going to find out the results until the next morning. It's out of our control. In Canada, we're in the position where interest is building again.

"In Canada, if you want to watch the Worlds and are willing to stay up late, it's all going to be on the CBC Bold network."

CBC is producing plenty of live product for the main network as well. Because of outrageous rights fees demanded by the ISU which had not adjusted to the reality of the effect of the Salt Lake scandal in North America, Canadians came close to not having an opportunity to watch our skaters win gold, silver and bronze at last year's Worlds.

New Skate Canada CEO William Thompson solved that just under the wire.

"Let's say we helped bring the parties together," he said of getting Scott Moore, head of CBC Sports, and Cinquanta in the same room in Europe.

'NOT OUR DEAL'

"It's not our deal. We left during the financial part of the discussions."

Thompson admits this is less than ideal for Canada.

"The TV situation is challenging. We have good television numbers again," he said of ratings compared to other sports events in Canada.

"The numbers are not the issue. It's the economy and a shifting model.

"We're now in a day of trying to break even when it comes to television and we may not be far away from having to pay some costs to be able to make it relevant."

Skate Canada marketing director Debbie Wilkes agrees.

"It's a changed time. The world is a different place. Skating shot itself in the foot in Salt Lake City. The judging scandal, combined with a drop in talent in North America and now a totally different economy has changed things dramatically," she said.

"In Canada, new talent is really coming. But for some of the rest of it, it's a really difficult challenge. That includes some of the things we're dealing with here."

And what does our man Chan think about the prospects of his moment being televised back in his native Ottawa and hometown Toronto?

"I'm just happy to be skating where the L.A. Lakers and L.A. Kings play. "I think a lot of people at home will be up watching and if they're not, there are always replays."


Photos