Late-night figure skating ridiculous

By

VANCOUVER ó There is no truth to the rumour that Bud Selig is scheduling figure skating at the Winter Olympics.

But it sure smells a lot like him.

On Tuesday night at the Winter Olympics, the womenís figure-skating competition began. Aside from being one of the signature events of any Olympic Games, this had a special, emotional tie for so many Canadians. This was Joannie Rochette skating for the first time since the death of her mother, just two days earlier.

This was something we had to see, the kind of event, kind of human study that Olympic drama is all about.

And when she took to the ice of the Pacific Coliseum at 11:27 EST, with a pro-Canadian crowd first applauding wildly, then respectfully silent, all of Canada should have been watching.

Except ó how could they be?

In the Maritimes, Rochette began her short program at 12:27 a.m. In Newfoundland, it was a half hour later. For working people in Quebec and Ontario, the skate started just around or after bedtime. For kids into the Olympics, maybe for the first time, the kind of kids VANOC chairman John Furlong has talked so openly of engaging, itís way past their bedtime.

Canít you just see an Olympian of the future telling the story of talking her parents into letting her stay up late to watch figure skating?

It seems the International Olympic Committee, with an assist from VANOC, the television rights holders, and the figure-skating federation put together this Olympic schedule. They decided skating would be at night here ó every night ó and to heck with the time change for the rest of Canada. And never mind that this is middle of the night in Europe.

Good news though: Itís morning TV in Japan.

All of this, of course, is reminiscent of the baseball commissionerís annual scheduling of the World Series, with games that start at a semi-reasonable time and end with too many of us snoring on our couches. The final skater Miki Ando of Japan began her program Tuesday night and ended it just as Wednesday morning began in the east. At least the people of Japan got to see their skater live. The rest of the world? We donít know.

And what about North America? What about the most televised Olympics in history being accessible for everyone?

The thing about this Olympics is, everything gets replayed and replayed and replayed to the point itís hard to tell whatís live and whatís memorex and what NBC is happening to show. That said, the best of Olympic sports, the best of TV sports, the best of drama, is live and not in reruns. And it hasnít just been the womenís figure skating with scheduling issues.

When Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir danced their way to gold Monday night, they did so closer to midnight than 11 oíclock in the east. An historic gold medal was apparently watched by 7.3 million Canadians. But how many of them fought to stay awake while waiting for their skate? How many would have preferred to watch figure skating in prime time?

Someone ó the IOC, the FIS, the CIA, VANOC, the networks ó should have done something about this. Itís not like figure skating isnít popular: This is an impossible ticket in Vancouver. This is right up there with hockey as the peopleís choice for events to watch on TV. There is drama every night in skating.

And Tuesday night, there was Joannie Rochette.

An Olympic story unfolding before our very eyes.

If only weíre able to keep them open long enough.

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca


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