Ice Network

Le Cru du Jour: 'City of Wine' readies for Bompard

Skaters enjoy sights of Bordeaux; Rink staff learns lesson from 2014
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The Pont de pierre bridge is one of a number of picturesque settings that the French city of Bordeaux offers. -Getty Images

Thank you for joining us for 2015 Trophée Eric Bompard. It will be my honor and pleasure to check in with you several times a day, not just by reporting on the competition itself but also by portraying some of our favorite skaters' moods and, as is the case in this column, giving a behind-the-scenes perspective from this Trophée Bompard. I hope you enjoy it as much as I will enjoy writing it.

For the second year in a row, the "City of Wine," Bordeaux, in the southwest part of France, plays host to Trophée Bompard.

"Next year we'll be back in Paris for sure," an official of the French federation offered Thursday morning. "We have signed with the Paris arena, and the dates are now reserved."

Some will be happy to be back in the capital of France, but some will miss the spirit of Bordeaux. Skating attracts audiences from all over the country, anyway.

In the rink

The last public practice session Wednesday ended at 5 p.m., and then the technicians moved in to start assembling the ramps for the ceiling of the rink.

"You can't do that until the audience has left the building completely," the head technician explained.

They then started assembling the 200-foot structures, affixing lighting projectors to them prior to raising them some 30 feet above the ice. By 2 a.m., the lighting was ready. The skating stars will shine in the brightest light!

"We did our best to learn our lesson from last year," a French federation official added. "We won't make the same mistakes as last year."

One year ago, the rink had been turned into a concert hall until quite late the evening prior to competition, and the ice was not ready on time. This time it is.

Kiss, or cry?

"We're on track!" an official offered Thursday morning in the rink.

The city of Bordeaux woke up in the fog. The ice was crystal clear, however, as technicians were pouring water to add an additional quarter-inch to it. The kiss and cry was being set up. The two metal structures were still laying down on the floor, one above the other: kissing, or crying?

Japanese TV comes in first

Japanese media crews are always quite exciting to watch when there is skating nearby. Thursday morning, the Asahi TV crew was the first team to enter the rink.

About 15 technicians invaded the (much too small) room assigned to the group. They opened their numerous boxes and started assembling their cameras. A lighting explosion was heard as they tried to connect some equipment. Oops. Not the right voltage, apparently.

"We'll be watching Shoma Uno, Daisuke Murakami and Kanako Murakami, of course," the team's producer said. "But we'll also be following the other main skaters as well. Actually, we are only a small group here with 15 people. Last week, we had 50 technicians at Cup of China!"

In the streets

Bordeaux is a lovely city, with typical European architecture along the Garonne River downtown. Many skaters have already taken a walk around the area.

"We had a good dinner with a glass of wine yesterday evening," coach Frank Carroll offered.

Canada's Gabrielle Daleman and her mother left the hotel to walk downtown as well this morning. Gracie Gold and her mother went in the same direction to explore the city.

"I love the weather!" Gold said with her usual broad smile. "I'm so excited to come here. You can always go to Paris, but Bordeaux is so special!"

The temperature is far above seasonal average, around 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, there is a big shopping mall nearby the rink. It could well be an attraction to several skaters, too.

Psyche and credentials

Most skaters arrived Wednesday evening and were given their credentials in the hotel where most competitors are staying. Coincidentally, about 50 people will be attending a class for the two next days in the hotel's meeting room.

"We are psychologists from all over France, and we are taking a class in systemic psychology," one participant explained.

If any skater needs a psychologist, they won't have to go very far!

In the hotel lobby

Italian pairs skater Matteo Guarise, who competes with Nicole Della Monica, went down to the hotel lobby Thursday morning and found a video game sitting on a table. He opened the game right away with one of his teammates. Well, he lost. More important will be his play on a much wider screen in a few hours.

For the time being, the mood is still a playful one. The men were the first ones to take the ice for their first official practice session, at 12:30 p.m. Ice dance will follow, then pairs and then finally the ladies, much later in the afternoon.