Torino Ice 2005

Trip Start Jan 08, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, January 29, 2005

The European Figure Skating Championships were going to be in Turin at the end of January and it's probably the closest I'll ever get to the Worlds or Olympics, so I decided to go. We'd been to Turin before so I wasn't too worried that I would be traveling on my own.

I also work for a media company, and decided to chance it and ask if we would be sending a team to cover it and if they could give me a pass. You can imagine how EXCITED I was when I got the ok email and the forms to fill out for a Technicial Pass to the event!! Yiiiiiiiihhhhaaaaa!!! This meant I would get to wander round 'back stage' and perhaps brush shoulders with the likes of Evgeni Plushenko, Irina Slutskaya, Totmianina and Marinin,! So exciting. I got a bit worried though when still hadn't received any contact names or instructions the afternoon before I was supposed to leave. But I finally got a call and was told to head over to the registration centre to collect my pass when I got there.

I could hardly sleep I was so excited! We live over 55 miles (about 88km) from Stanstead airport and I had to take the bus out there but as I stepped into the car to get to the bus station I stepped into a blob of crap. Great. 02.20am and the car stank. I hoped this was not an omen. I scraped as much off as possible before I got on the bus but people were still looking at me.

It took absolutely ages to get from Turin Airport into the city, find my hotel and then make my way to the rink. I knew the Palavela was a fair way from where I was staying and I knew I would probably miss some of the Men's Short Program. There were signs all over the place saying 'Palavela' and 'Pattinaggio' but none of them said GET YOUR BUS TO THE SKATING HERE AT THIS BUS STOP RIGHT HERE! Well they may have done in Italian, but I'm learning Spanish. I got on one of the buses with a sign and made gestures, as you do in a foreign place. I mentioned things like, 'pattinaggio' and 'dove' (where) and I think I said, 'I would like' but not sure. The bus driver got frustrated trying to explain whatever it was he was trying to communicate to me and then said to stay on. At least I got a free ride and eventually made it out to the Palavela.

Anyone who has seen the original movie 'The Italian Job' with Michael Caine - it's the building with the sloped roof that the minis drive up.

I had bought tickets for three events, and with my media pass would be able to get into the others. I was a bit worried though because they couldn't find all my tickets! But I could hear the music calling me to the Men's Short so I said they'd have to sort it out later .I rushed to the registration centre and hoped they wouldn't pick me as an imposter. But they just smiled, took my photo, handed me my pass (that said JOURNALIST!! Promotion from Technician! Bring It On!!) and waved me on through!

The ushers couldn't work out where to send me to sit so they pushed me through an entrance and told me to sit anywhere. Fantastic! So I sat there for a while, but discovered when I tried to go out and buy a program, I had been sitting in the mayor's seat so then had to go and find my own which was still good but not as good. I was really close to the front and was right at the entrance where the skaters would be coming on and off the ice. I couldn't see the 'Kiss & Cry' but there was a screen for that. They'd also run out of programs for the public and were saving them all for the Italian school children. What were 5 year old Italian school children going to do with a program?

I found my way out to the media centre where they have the most amazing load of information. Even got a program!!! Plus a bag, a woolly beanie, a 'Time Out Turin' book and other tourist information. There was a huge book with the new judging system explained, stats and info on each competitor and other interesting tidbits. Couldn't believe it!! One of the inclusions was a 'Planned Program Content' handout. It listed each competitor with a detailed list of the program content (each jump, spin etc), the music and the coach. Also a 'Start List With Times'. I couldn't wait to see Plushenko, Joubert and Lindemann. I recognized quite a few names from television and couldn't believe I was there.

It was absolutely fantastic to see some live skating at this level and I had three days of it! Not everyone skated terribly well but it was awesome to be there. The rink wasn't full but the home crowd went wild when the Italian came on. Plushenko was good too but Joubert was on fire. I won't got into detail about everyone but I just can't say how it felt to see all the skaters in the flesh that I'd been watching on television for so long! I took loads of photos. As the skaters finished a lot of them came up to sit in the stands behind me. So I gave them a smile as they passed and when they saw my Journalist Pass they smiled back! After the Men's Short I phoned the real journalist from work that was covering the event and went up to sit in the Tribune area with her to watch the Pairs Free Skating. I had a quick chat to Sue Barker, who was in the next seat. She's quite small and orange. But that's the price you pay for a permanent tan.

There a monitor at each position in the Tribune Area which allows the journalists or whoever to choose what they'd like to view. They can of course watch the performance or watch it on the screen or switch to various different screens to see the deductions as they are entered by the judges during the program. It's great!! All that information, right there at your fingertips. I remember the old days when everything was on paper and it took ages and ages for the marks to come up. Everyone had their laptops up there too, bashing away trying to get their stories in first before their competitors. It was great seeing that kind of 'behind the scenes' action too. I was then invited to the press conference!!! It was so exciting! The top three from the completed Pair Skating comp came in and were interviewed by a room full of 'us'. I couldn't believe my luck! It was such a great night!

When I was sitting in the Tribune Area, which is where all the journalists sit, the ushers came around regularly with spot interview quotes recorded when the skaters were interviewed as they came off the ice. After the event had finished the media centre also issued a 'Results Details' sheet with the judges scores and all the deductions. With my journo pass I could have gone and interviewed the skaters as they came off the ice if I'd wanted to, but I'd have had to watch the performances on a screen, so decided just to stick to the press conferences for any questions I had for them.

The skating finished really late but there was a pizza place near my hotel that make the best calzones ever and I hadn't eaten all day. David and I had been on our previous trip and I made it there by about 23.30. Thank god they were still open!! After a stinking start and frustrating journey into Turin, I'd had a fab day watching skating and a tasty calzone to end it with.

Next day was the Original Dance and the Men's Long. I wanted to get there early to see the Men's practice and take some more photos. As I arrived there was a huge commotion and the attendants told me that there was a big rally by the employees of the nearby Fiat factory that was being hit by hard times. They were protesting at all the money being spent on preparation for the Olympics and they felt that not enough was being done to keep the locals in work. They had closed the ticket stand and held back all the public but once again I pulled through with my Pass. Was there no end to it's brilliance! Everyone was super nice to me too.

I could go on and on about the skating. The Dance was great. The new rules have made it so much more entertaining and vibrant to watch. It felt amazing to be able to saunter round wherever I wanted to and get the nod from all the officials and skaters! It was brilliant. I could just wander into the Tribune Area and take any seat, wander into the press conferences and sit near the front and take loads of photos. I felt that I might get spotted though with my dinky little digital camera and all the other photographers with their great big fat cameras with big phallic lens attachments.

Men's Long. Plushenko had to pull himself together if he wanted to win. The rink was packed solid. Joubert didn't skate very well and lost his lead - ended up 2nd. The crowds went berserk when Plushenko came on. He skated really well and of course won! The audience was throwing so much stuff onto the ice, cards, soft toys, flowers, signed Russian flags. Lots of people rushed to the barriers to try to get his autograph. Poor Stefan Lindemann couldn't hear the beginning of his music because the crowds were still screaming and cheering! He skated well though and came in 3rd.

I won't go on forever about all the skating, fabulous though it was. I had another chat with Sue Barker and met some other journos and attended more press conferences with the skaters! It was fantastic to hear what the skaters had to say. Plushenko did say though that it was hard to be at the top and stay there. He also said he had a few injuries and was feeling tired so had not performed his best but hoped he would skate better in Moscow for the Worlds.

The Ladies were wonderful as well. Would Irina Sluyskaya be able to win her title back from Julia Sebestyen? Slutskaya came out in a fantastic black trouser outfit, shunning the usual little skating dress. She skated brilliantly and was leading the competition. Unfortunately both the Italian girls skated badly. Although Carolina Kostner would have a chance to redeem herself in the World Championships in March. The poor girl was mobbed though when she went out to get a drink. All the young boys almost pawing to get photos with her and autographs. All the eager Mum's pushing their little ones to the front to get photos!

It was a great day. I was really pushing it for time though but I really really wanted to go to the press conference. They had the draw for the Ladies Long Program too and then the questions for the top three ladies. I wanted to know if the illness she'd suffered from last year had affected her training regime or her life in a big way. She said she was still taking medication and that it made her more tired than usual but she was enjoying being able to sleep a bit more and would step up her training when she was a bit better.

I'd miss out on the Ladies Long Program and the Gala because I had to leave, but at least I'd been able to see a segment of all sections of the competition. I'm so glad I went. I can't say how exciting it all was and with the added bonus of getting to attend the press conferences and having all that extra information available. It made so much difference to my experience. I couldn't stop smiling!

I knew I'd have a 'mare rushing back to the hotel and finding the bus for the airport and if it wasn't for a local girl helping me out I'd have been stranded in Turin!!! I made my flight and had a great 5 hours ahead of me camping out on the cold, hard floor of Stanstead Airport waiting for David to arrive at about 5am Saturday morning for our flight to Gothenburg and a weekend of fun, laughter, skating and beer!!!
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