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Four C's a test-drive for 2010 Games

Tickets expected to go on sale in late September

Daisuke Takahashi gave a record-breaking performance at the 2008 Four Continents Championships.
Daisuke Takahashi gave a record-breaking performance at the 2008 Four Continents Championships. (Getty Images)

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By Laurie Nealin, special to icenetwork.com
(08/20/2008) - As every Olympic athlete knows, practice makes perfect. That also goes for the organizers of Olympic events.

As manager for the figure skating events at the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games, these days Bev Viger is spending the majority of her working days preparing for her ultimate practice session -- next February's ISU Four Continents Championship which doubles as the official "test" event for the real thing in 2010.

Test events are all about determining "Games-readiness" -- the phrase used by Olympic organizers.

"We will be testing our volunteers which we are recruiting now. A lot of those volunteers will also be used at Games time. That's a really big part of our testing," Viger said.

She reports that her crew will include 212 sport-specific volunteers and another 150 who take care of things such as transportation, security, and event services. The majority of volunteers are expected to be people who have already participated in previous figure skating events in British Columbia such as the 1997 and 2008 Canadian Championships and the 2001 Worlds.

"We also have eight volunteers who actually volunteered for figure skating in Torino," Viger added. "They had an opportunity to see what it was like to participate in an Olympic Games. To my knowledge, I don't have any volunteers that have applied to me who were in Salt Lake City (in 2002)."

The "field of play" -- the actual on-ice competition logistics -- and all that goes on backstage involving the athletes, media and officials will be test-driven to make sure the traffic flows smoothly behind the scenes.

That includes dressing rooms, lounge and warm-up area for the expected 210 athletes, media interview zones and work room, medical area, judges' and technical delegates' rooms, video replay, and information and transportation desks.

Everything from a full-service hair and make-up salon to costume repair and skate sharpening services will be available on site to the athletes. In their lounge, internet access is provided.

"We're responsible for everything from the time the athlete gets off the bus to the time they get back on the bus to the hotel. They'll come in about an hour prior to competition time, do some warm-up. They might have a bite to eat in the athlete lounge. They'll go to the dressing room and get ready to go onto the ice.

"We'll be working closely with the ISU coordinator and television to make sure that all stays on time -- the athletes get on and off the ice on time," Viger said.

Viger's team also coordinates with the results team, what happens in the kiss-n-cry, the competitor's trip through the mixed zone for media interviews, and the press conference afterwards for the medalists.

Despite her very long to-do list, Viger is very confident that plans are well in hand for Four Continents.

The 11,000 tickets for the championship, February 2-8, are expected to go on sale later in September. Fans can get updates and prices early next month on the official website www.fourcontinents2009.com.

Viger is no rookie when it comes to her assignment. She has been involved with figure skating in British Columbia for 20 years, primarily as a volunteer who gained experience working on major events held in the province. She was also hired by the 2006 Turin Games committee as a consultant to assist in organizing their Olympic figure skating contests.

"What I learned the most [in Turin] was that the athletes always come first. Bringing together a team that can put on the best event possible for the athletes, making their life as easy as possible, having everything available to them so they never have to worry about a thing. They come in, do their job and they leave and they're happy.

"Everything that we can do for them and the team that works with them will ensure we have the best event possible," Viger said.

Staging the 4C is a joint endeavor between VANOC, Skate Canada and the ISU.

"The ISU awards the event to Skate Canada, so Skate Canada is responsible to make sure everything that the ISU has requested is followed and considered," Viger explained.

"Games time, the [Olympic] championship is put on with the IOC [International Olympic Committee] and the ISU is the governing federation for figure skating. We work closely with the ISU to ensure the figure skating rules are followed, but from an overall operational perspective, it's more IOC," Viger clarified.

Last year, Viger was appointed a regional coordinator by the ISU to assist in staging events in North America. Her first assignment was assistant event coordinator at Skate America in Reading, Pa.