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Paris potpourri: And then the ice started to shine!

Ruminations on accreditation bracelets, puffy armchairs and 6,000 screaming schoolchildren

Brian Joubert was taken aback by the unusual armchairs organizers set up in the kiss and cry.
Brian Joubert was taken aback by the unusual armchairs organizers set up in the kiss and cry. (AFP)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(11/16/2012) - 9:15, Thursday morning. Paris and the banks of the Seine River are quiet after the morning rush hour. Two huge, dark blue trucks have entered into the space surrounding the Bercy arena, east of Paris. They stop in front of door N. 32. A lady gets out and explains they will produce the images of the Grand Prix for all television channels worldwide. Soon, kilometers of big wires will be placed from the rink to the trucks.

On the ice, the first group of ladies has taken the ice for the first official practice session. Skating looks heavy in the morning; traces are wobbling on the ice. There, you can measure all the energy it takes to reach the stars. Skating appears as it is, still uncovered at this time. It won't last, though, as glitter and body postures will soon cover sweat and jet lag.

Only a handful of journalists are at work. A Canadian TV analyst says it's cold in Paris. She walked all the way from Notre Dame to the Arc de Triomphe yesterday. "It killed my feet!" she jokes. From now on, feet will be put at rest -- for journalists at least. Fingers will make the effort.

It's incredible to think that from our limited human bodies can emerge the beauty of figure skating and the passion it fires into each one of us all around the world. Passion is ready to uncover itself, too. Thank you for being with us. It's a privilege to be here and share these two days with you.


Weir have the flowers gone?

Johnny Weir will not compete in Paris, but his spirit is still floating around. Many in Paris do remember Weir's 2004 victory at the Trophée Eric Bompard. Weir's pure edges and sophisticated style had brought the audience to a complete silence as he skated his free program.

At the time, the main discussion dealt with quads vs. edges.

"Quads are important for the future of skating," Weir had then stated, "And they need to be rewarded more than they are."

He, however, insisted on how important it was that "the new judging system promotes softer edges and touch of ice as much as jumps, [in order to keep skating as a] mixture of sport and art."

Eight years have passed since, and Weir's vision proved right.


Do you want to be an accredited press?

"This year there is no specific press card for the accredited journalists," the Bompard press officer said this morning, at the opening of the press room. What, then, do accredited journalists have to enter into the arena?

You will never guess: a simple bracelet with "Trophée Eric Bompard" printed on it. Nothing really fancy, actually: The bracelet is made of regular paper.

In the press room, some posters advise journalists that they have to "keep their bracelet for the whole four days of the event." Two ideas immediately reach you as you read it:

1. The look those bracelets will have after four showers, on Sunday morning
2. If you want to be an accredited journalist, just print your own bracelet. It's easy, it's environmentally friendly, and it works!


Poetry in the making

Only a few spectators in the arena -- mostly officials and specialists -- were present to watch Jeremy Abbott's first practice session Thursday night.

Abbott's skate was like a romance between his blades and the ice. A journalist came in. She sat down eating a sandwich. She watched for half a minute and then said: "This is not interesting. There is no costume," and left right away.

How much time it takes to just appreciate a romance in our busy century...


Stay straight!

Although classy and beautifully set up, this year's scenery of the Trophée Bompard is much less exuberant than it once was.

To start the competition, the organizers have set up a couple of funny, puffy armchairs in the kiss and cry area. They are flashy white in the grey area, and as out of shape as the lines of the kiss and cry are straight.

"I hope it's not the real ones!" a coach said as they were being placed. Brian Joubert was just stretching after his practice session. He stared at the armchairs and erupted in laughter: "For sure, if we have to sit in those after our programs, no one will ever be able to stand up again!"


The big skating fall migration has started!

Friday mornings are usually quiet at the Trophée Bompard. Usually, a handful of skaters tries to wake their bodies up for the last practice session before the competition starts. The red seats remain with their arms wide and empty until later in the day, when the first spectators start to reach the rink.

This year is completely different. As soon as you enter the rink, you are overwhelmed by what sounds like a crop of migrating birds -- about 6,000 yelling and shouting and clapping of them, to be precise.

The organizers have invited all the children of the Paris schools to join in and watch the practice session. Six thousand of them have come. There is no way to remain silent or sleepy in such an atmosphere! They clap to every move, spin or jump. Skating will make their day.

"Who knows? A few of them may become tomorrow's champions!" a competitor offered.

Skating migrations do take time, however...