16 December 2005

We are the Champions

It's December 9th, a Saturday night, and I’m taking Maya and Kalyna to Victor Petrenko’s “We are the Champions” figure skating show. They actually stay awake through three hours of skating. I also stay awake. The loud music helps. If there is one thing Ukrainian promoters have down pat it’s audio systems at events. Judging from the info on the ticket I am expecting a lame “has been” show. There is a tendency for over the hill artists to perform in Kyiv. The Scorpions and Joe Cocker visit annually and just last month Judas Priest and Nazareth made an appearance. So here we are at Palace of Sports and the night ends up being full of surprises. Surprise 1: Korona chocolates is sponsoring the event and has placed a chocolate bar and brochure on every seat in the house (not surprising). The surprise is that when we finally navigate to our seats, only seconds before the start of the event (of course), only our seats are empty, in a sea of people, and there in each seat is the chocolate and brochure. No one had swiped them. When I explain this to people at work they say, well zvychayno if you are taking about an event that cost was 96 hryvnia ($19.20) for each seat this is not your average person. This is a person with osvita and kultura. Surprise 2: The place is 90% full even at these prices. Surprise 3: the skating is excellent. Take my opinion with a grain of salt since it is my first time watching figure skating live, but I am impressed and happy that I’m spending money on this and not on that lame Poplavsky concert. You GO, you former world and European champions. I don’t recognize their names when they are announced, although the crowd certainly does. Surprise 4: This is the first Palace of Sports event that has a Ukrainian feel to it since one of the two MC’s speaks only Ukrainian, while the other one speaks Russian. Pliushchenko, the skater from St. Petersburg and an Olympic medal hopeful, came out with a big orange flag. The crowd cheered. He then proceeds to strip down to his sparkling gold Speedo underwear to the tune of “Sex Bomb”. When the show is over I ask Maya and Kalyna who their favorite skater is. Was it Petrenko and the intricate number he skated with his little daughter? Was it the graceful former world champion Yevgenia Hordieva? Nope. The girls are in agreement that it’s definitely the guy in the gold gatsi. For two days after the event it’s all about the crazy gatsi guy.

The amount of police inside was above average. I’ve lived here long enough to not even notice how weird it is that real police are in the arena instead of the rent a cops I am used to at American sporting events. When I hear them announce that Kateryna Yushchenko is in the audience (“let’s hear it for Pani President” they said) with her daughters it’s clear why the extra security is there. Although I’m not sure I’d rely on these crack cops one of which is standing directly in front of us. He looks 18 and has his hand buried in a bag of sunflower seeds tossing them in his mouth and spitting the shells on the ground. Not exactly scanning the rafters for a shooter.

So the girls are leaning forward in their seats and enjoying the skating and the lights which paint snow flakes and other geometric designs on the ice. They are also enjoying their Pringles, popcorn, water (with and without gas) and of course the free Korona chocolates. You think someone tainted them? Let me taste them first. Tato work. As I look at the figure skaters I can’t help but wonder if it would be more entertaining if they had hockey sticks in their hands and launched a slap shot or two once in a while. There could be a mandatory double-axel, a solchow and a slap shot. Nice.
After the show, at Maya’s request we embark on a futile quest to find her friends that are purportedly somewhere in the stands. We find nobody, but somehow we end up on the actual ice rink. It appears the rink is open to all to walk and slide around. The girls tried to keep up with the snowflake light patterns moving across the ice. Five pictures here.

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