Figure skating, the showcase event of the Goodwill Games, was postponed today and will probably be moved to another venue because of ice problems at the main rink.
Goodwill Games president Jack Kelly said the start of figure skating was being put off until Thursday because there still isn't enough ice at the Yubileiny Sports Palace.Kelly said organizers were making plans to shift the competition to the SKA rink, a half-mile away, just as they did at the last minute with short track speedskating events Tuesday night.
A final decision on moving to the SKA rink was to be made later in the day, but Kelly said there was virtually no chance of figure skating going ahead at Yubileiny.
"We're assuming that we will make the move," he said. "We don't believe there's any realistic chance they'll hold it at Yubileiny with the rate of ice. We don't want to take any risk with the skaters with thin ice or anything that would make it less than an adequate ice surface."
It's the third time an event has had to be rescheduled because of problems at a venue. Swimming was put off for a day at the start of the 16-day Goodwill Games because of murky water in the pool.
The figure skating had been scheduled to run for four nights, from today through Saturday. Kelly said today's program will be moved to Thursday and Thursday's to Friday. Events will be doubled up either Friday or Saturday.
The move will pose considerable logistical challenges. The SKA venue holds less than 3,000 people and has no facilities for competition. TV cameras, lights and scoring equipment will all have to be set up in a hurry.
A heat wave, with temperatures in the 90s, a power outage and lack of air conditioning were blamed for the failure in getting the ice ready at Yubileiny. The venue was used for boxing until Saturday.
"The ice is being made very slowly," Kelly said. "They have no explanation for it. The pipes show -14 degrees, and the ice, instead of drying in a layer in 20-30 minutes, is taking 2-21/2 hours for each layer."
Kelly, who had given assurances Tuesday that the ice would be ready in time for figure skating practice today, said Yubileiny officials had misled organizers about the rate of ice-making and suggested some people might soon be out of a job.
"Their specialists appear not to be specialists," he said. "Their experts were not entirely forthcoming with the difficulties they were having. There are still some vestiges of the old (Soviet) system, where it's better not to give any bad news." Kelly said the conditions of the ice at SKA would be good.
"The skaters are not unhappy with SKA," he said. "They've been practicing on it. They say it's acceptable ice to them. The speedskaters thought it was a little soft; figure skaters want it soft."
Matt Pensinger, a spokesman for U.S. figure skating, concurred. "I don't think it will really denigrate the competition for the skaters," he said. "The positive side is they've practiced there for two days. The skaters have been very pleased with the ice at SKA."
Pensinger said this was the first time a major figure skating event has been moved.
Short track speedskating had been scheduled to start at 2 p.m. local time Tuesday at Yubileiny. First, organizers rescheduled the start to 8 p.m. But an hour before the new time, they decided to switch the events to the SKA rink.
Shuttle buses ferried spectators to the new venue, while organizers lugged computers, timing devices and other equipment from Yubileiny to the SKA rink. The start was delayed another 90 minutes as officials installed pads along the boards and stapled advertising signs over them.