Canadian Skaters Experience Moscow for the First Time
(December 6, 2002)
By Gayle McClelland -- National Teams Director and Team Manager
A team of Canadian athletes set forth last week for the fifth ISU Grand Prix series event - the Cup of Russia - Gallina Blanca.
None of the skaters had been to Moscow before, and everyone was interested to see what the trip and event would hold. They were, perhaps, a bit skeptical. Upon arrival at the Moscow airport, the team queued up for about three hours to get through passport control and customs. Once that was completed, it was off to the Hotel Ukraina, our home away from home for the week. Moscow is the capital of Russia, and approximately 9 million people live there.
The hotel itself was a beautiful example of the Stalinist-Gothic architecture prevalent throughout Moscow. Inside, the foyer was complete with a mural-painted ceiling and expansive staircases. The rooms were basic but clean, and as usual at Grand Prix events, there was an event dining room set up. The area around the hotel was quite safe, with small grocery stores nearby, as well as an Italian pizzaria and restaurant, which was frequented by both skaters and coaches in between meal times. The size and opulence of the buildings throughout the city impressed everyone. Even the adventurous team members that ventured onto the subway system could not help but be awestruck by the marble and statues that adorn some of the subway stops.
A team dinner was held before the official practices and events began. All of the athletes wanted to try something Russian, so off we went to the Central House of Writers. The carved wood and high ceilings were a site to behold. I don't think any of the team had ever been in such a beautiful place! The team was seated in a private dining room complete with candelabras. A string quartet played on the stair landing and classical music rang out throughout the meal. The team ventured to have traditional specialties such as Borscht, pirozhki, and even dishes with some caviar. Everyone agreed that this was a great start to the week, and the dinner will long be remembered!
The practices and competition took place at the Luzhniki Ice arena, which was right next to the impressive 1980 Olympic Stadium. The results from the event are all posted on the Skate Canada Web site. There was good crowd at the arena, and the fans were supportive of all of the athletes. It was interesting that for the opening draws, rather than draw numbers out of a bag, each skater got to select a small porcelain statue - the draw numbers were on the bottom of the statues!
During some time off, the entire team managed to make their way to visit Red Square and the Kremlin. Again, the buildings were spectacular, especially when lit up at night-some of the buildings there date from the 15th Century. Security is quite strict throughout Moscow, and at some point each team member was asked to show his or her passport and visa to local authorities. Red Square was about a 30-minute walk from the rink, or a 10-ruble ride by the local streetcar.
The event days flew by, and before everyone knew it, the week was coming to a close. The closing banquet was also held at the hotel, and again, provided everyone with the opportunity to venture into some traditional fare. Chicken Kiev was the main fare, and an orchestra, accompanied by a variety of singers, provided the entertainment. The Russian Federation had some impressive guests attending the function, including Russian Skating Federation President, Mr. Valentin Piseev, Mr. Viacheslav Fetisov, Chairman of the State Committee of the Russian Federation for Physical Culture and Sport, and even the President of the Olympic Committee of Russia, Mr. Leonid Tyagachev.
In polling the athletes at the end of the week, everyone heartily agreed that Moscow had exceeded their expectations, and all of the team members pledged to be back when Moscow hosts the 2005 World Figure Skating Championships!