With the conclusion of the gala exhibition on Sunday another World Championships came to a close.
I am sure it will come as no surprise to anyone that there was a capacity crowd in place for this fabulous show.
More than 18,000 spectators attended each day during the course of the competition, but even more fans could have been in the arena if the VIP section, which was shamefully half-full for the duration of the entire event, had been opened to the public.
This was the World Championships that Japan had been waiting for with much anticipation since the 2011 edition was cancelled due to the Great Eastern Japan earthquake and tsunami. While dining in restaurants, waiting for trains or browsing in stores, I was constantly struck by how many times figure skating came up in the conversations of those around me. It was quite a strange yet lovely experience to be in a place where Mao Asada's triple Axel or Yuzuru Hanyu's quad were everyday topics for young and old alike.
Nice touch: The organizing committee held the small medal ceremonies for the free skates outside so those who couldn't get tickets to the events had a chance to share the moment and see the skaters. This worked well on Saturday when the sun shone, but, on Sunday, the fans who had staked out their places from early morning were showered with rain accompanied by a howling wind.
I shared the press room with some students who were responsible for the newspaper at a local high school. Throughout the week, I could identify them by their school uniforms covering events in the arena; talking to skaters in the mixed zone one day, asking questions in the press conference the next. It was great that they were able to experience Worlds and to learn in this way.
I'm sure they will have some wonderful stories to tell their peers and perhaps they'll be inspired to cover figure skating down the road.
The skating at Worlds was of an exceptional standard, but what I will take away from this competition is how terrific the Japanese fans were. The last skating competition I attended in Japan was the 2000 Four Continents in Osaka. It was a different era. First of all, you could buy tickets on the day and the only event that was in any way well attended was the men's competition. The audience was polite and respectful, but reserved.
This time, it was so different. The warmth and enthusiasm that the Japanese public showed to every single skater was overwhelming. The desire to make every athlete feel at home really came across by the number of national flags that were produced and waved even if that skater was a direct rival to a Japanese skater. I may be accused of bias and certainly self-praise is no praise, but the Japanese fans are for me the best in the world.
There had been many articles and opinions voiced prior to the competition that holding a World Championship in an Olympic year was a useless exercise.
I am certain that the skaters who showed up in Saitama and the fans who so passionately supported them would beg to differ.