This was the chance of a lifetime. I had so many questions about what this experience would entail
by Renee Lacy
I’ll admit to being obsessed with ice skating for most of my life and when I was assigned to go on a business trip to Shanghai, China the same weekend as Cup of China, I was ecstatic. Finally a chance to see an international competition! The biggest event I had seen previously was U.S. Nationals in St. Louis.
I had a work colleague buy me tickets in advance. The price was very reasonable; approximately $50 US for two full days of ice skating. This was the chance of a lifetime. I had so many questions about what this experience would entail: What food would be served in the stadium, how the crowd would act, were there skating nuts like me in China, etc.
The Old City
I arrived in Shanghai a few days in advance to take care of some work assignments for my employer. The evening I arrived the city was covered in fog and mist. I survived the hour long taxi ride to the hotel that rivaled “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.” Then there was the wake-up call that never came the next morning. International travel can be so exciting. Fast forward through two full days of work…
It was show time! And I was still at work. My co-worker from the Philippines decided to come along with me to see what figure skating was all about. We tried to leave early to beat the traffic, but no luck. My colleague was worried about me getting to the stadium at rush hour, so he decided to lead us most of the way there. We hopped on a packed bus and headed to the metro station. The ticket stations have English, so you just select the route and stop you want and insert your money. Then you follow the lines of people to the train. There were people everywhere, and just when you thought that the train was packed full, more people got on. At the transfer point we switched trains, and he headed home. There was a stop right at the Oriental Sports Center which is less than 1 year old and was previously used for the world swimming championships last summer. We passed through some metal detectors and headed in just in time to see Carolina Kostner finishing her program. Work paid transportation and lodging but that also comes with a price – and for me, it was missing the short dance and ladies short program.
During the resurfacing I cruised around the stadium to see what was available. It turns out that concessions are not very popular.
Oriental Sports Center
There were a few places selling bottled drinks and cookies, a tea stand, and a counter with two mystery dishes with rice. Risport had a display of skates and dresses and Canon had a booth where you could pose with skater cutouts and they would take and print your photo.
It was time for the men to begin skating. I rushed in to discover that someone was sitting in my seat. Apparently the Chinese are not shy about moving to a better seat. I saw people moving around to empty seats all night. So I joined in and sat in someone else’s spot. The crowd was very polite and wanted everyone to do well. There was noticeably more cheering for the Chinese skaters as should be expected in any host city arena. Many people had cameras with long lenses and were taking action shots.
I was very impressed with the quality of skating as even the lower-ranked skaters were still displaying great skating skills. We saw a quad or two, all kinds of costumes, and a few falls. The pair skating was exciting with the tiny girls flying high. I didn’t always agree with the judges’ ranking, but without an announcer telling you the skills, it’s hard to be sure what credit was given, so acceptance is the best policy – in addition to looking up the summary online afterwards.
The crowd got a kick out of throwing things on the ice, but the stands were quite a bit higher and back away from the ice, so you needed a strong arm and heavy gift to make it. The people really liked seeing the skaters hold up their gifts in the “Kiss and Cry” area on camera.
The lady seated next to me spoke English very well, and we chatted about the various skaters and programs. She said she liked to see the skaters having a good time and skating to fun music. Her favorite all time skater is Plushenko. Mine is Kwan. We bonded over skating, and now I can say that skating fanatics are the same everywhere.
Stay tuned for tomorrow for more about free skates and my experience at Cup of China!
Renee Lacy is a materials engineer, adult skater, and part time skating instructor. She recently achieved a personal goal of passing the adult gold moves in the field test.
Learn more about Cup of China on Wikipedia along with official results for all events.