The French Riviera is best known for its weather and beaches rather than its ice rinks. But for the second time in 12 years, Nice will play host to the World Figure Skating Championships.
In an unprecedented move in the summer of 1999, the International Skating Union (ISU) reassigned the 2000 World Championships from its original location in Brisbane, Australia to Nice, France.
“In less than six months, we were able to stage a world-class competition, but Russia recently proved to the skating family they could do it faster. So we will have no excuse if we fail,” said Didier Gailhaguet, president of the Fédération Française des Sports de Glace (FFSG) in reference to the fact that Russian authorities organized 2011 Worlds in less than six weeks.
Those who attended the millennium Championships will likely remember the venue. “The Acropolis Exposition Hall will once again host the event. The good thing with this venue is that we can build the interior from scratch according to our wishes,” Gailhaguet told IFS.
“The low note is the cost of creating everything. We rushed in 2000 and we made some mistakes, but the economy has changed since then and we cannot afford to repeat those errors.”
The price tag for hosting Worlds is expected to be the equivalent of US$10 million, twice the FFSG budget.
The French bid for 2012 Worlds has many positives, said ISU Chair Sports Directorate Peter Krick following the official site visit in late June. “Having within a radius of 60 yards the competition rink, practice rink and the athletes’ accommodation facilities is something rarely achieved. I am already thrilled to imagine ourselves being there next March,” Krick explained.
“And for those who will have official accreditations, they will be able to use a new and efficient mass transportation system at no cost.”
More than 52,000 tickets were sold in 2000, and Gailhaguet is expecting a much bigger attendance in 2012, perhaps double. “Half of the tickets will likely be sold to the subjects of Nice,” he said. “Another 25 percent will be purchased by the rest of the French population, which will mean only 25 percent of the audience will be foreign fans.”
It is anticipated that the venue will accommodate approximately 10,000 people.
The mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, wants visitors to know that Nice is not only a seaside resort but also a winter sports haven. Alpine ski resorts are less than an hour’s drive from Nice.
With access to the second-largest international airport in France, many visitors to Nice will be able to reach the French Riviera without connecting via Paris.
“Economically, the event could represent 46,000 hotel nights overall,” Gailhaguet said. “This could help us to balance the budget. It justifies why the city of Nice, the Communauté urbaine (the urban community of Nice Côte d’Azur) and the Conseil général des Alpes-Maritimes (General Council) are financially supporting us.”
Estrosi admitted that a low-cost event in Nice is not an option. But, he said, “A competition like this is the best way to promote the sport, and the FFSG has decided to renew the initiative it took in 2000. At that time, there were qualifying rounds for ladies and men. Skaters were complaining because they were competing to empty seats. In 2000, we invited schoolchildren that cheered not only the stars but also supported the unknowns. Everyone was very appreciative.”
France Télévisions, the host broadcaster, is expected to introduce the Sky-Cam, which has only been used once in figure skating coverage at a World Championships (ESPN first used the camera at the 2006 Worlds in Calgary). Also nicknamed “Spider-Cam” (because it is wire-linked to four poles), this camera allows angles and shots to be taken above the ice.
If Evan Lysacek and Evgeni Plushenko return to competition, Nice may well provide the opportunity of a lifetime. It will be the first time in history that the last two Olympic men’s champions have reconvened on competitive ice.
No doubt two former and current World champions (Brian Joubert, Daisuke Takahashi and Patrick Chan) will also be part of this battle of stars.
At press time, the FFSG and France Télévisions were awaiting the final approval of their programming proposals: ice dance free on Thursday night, pairs free on Friday night, men’s free on Saturday afternoon and ladies free on Saturday night.
THINKING ABOUT ATTENDING WORLDS?
If you have not yet made any plans, our favorite skating tour operators have a variety of options to choose from.
The Event: All-event tickets and daily transportation to and from the rink on competition days.
Accommodation: The Hotel Negresco, one of the “Leading Hotels in the World,” is a 10-minute drive to the rink and within walking distance of the arenas. Full breakfast is included.
Sightseeing Tours: Full-day excursion starting with a trip to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and a tour of a private villa decorated by Cocteau and Picasso (rarely open to the public), and the Villa Ephrussi de Rothshild, which houses more than 5,000 pieces of art. Lunch is included. In the afternoon, a walking tour through the charming hilltop town of Eze.
A walking tour through Old Nice and a visit to St-Paul-de-Vence. A wine tasting is included.
A morning walk through a local food market with a local food journalist.
A morning tour of the nearby town of Antibes and a visit to the Picasso Museum.
A farewell banquet at an as yet undisclosed special scenic venue.
The Event: All-event tickets plus extras.
Accommodation: The brand-new Hipark Résidences. All suites include a living room, dining area and a kitchen with a kettle and microwave. The hotel is a five-minute walk to the skating venues.
An opening reception on the Sunday prior to the commencement of the event.
Sightseeing Tours: No side trips are scheduled during the competition or practice sessions. If the competition schedule permits, a city tour is a possibility.
SILVER BLADES TOURS
The Event: All-event tickets in prime locations, tram passes and transfers each evening from the venue, plus other extras.
Accommodation: Le Méridien Nice, a four-star deluxe hotel including full breakfast. The hotel is adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea and is approximately one and a half miles (three kilometers) from the skating venues.
Sightseeing tours: A trip to the medieval hilltop village of Eze with a stop at the Fragonard perfume factory and an afternoon adventure in Monte Carlo.
A tour to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, which includes the Basilique Notre-Dame and the ancient neighbourhood of Cimiez; entrance to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothshild and Gardens. Lunch included.
A farewell dinner at the five-star deluxe Hotel Negresco.
Silver Blade Tours president Claudyne Cassella Hutchinson will personally escort this tour.
The Event: Prime all-event tickets and daily evening coach transfers between arena and hotel.
Accommodation: Nine nights’ accommodation at the Holiday Inn Nice. Breakfast is included.
Sightseeing tours: Choice of Monaco, featuring Monte Carlo and the village of Eze or Cannes, Grasse and St-Paul-de-Vence. Travel by deluxe motor coach with English-speaking guides.
Round-trip airport arrival and departure transfers (for group flights only).
Angela Hildebrandt and Cathie Leak will personally escort this tour.
Originally published in October 2011