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Hughes blog: An exciting day on Wall Street

Olympians ring Closing Bell in honor of RISE

Sarah Hughes hammers a big gavel at the New York Stock Exchange.
Sarah Hughes hammers a big gavel at the New York Stock Exchange. (courtesy Sarah Hughes)

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By Sarah Hughes, special to icenetwork.com
(02/16/2011) - In honor of the 50th anniversary of the plane crash that killed the 34-person U.S. world team on Feb. 15, 1961, Evan Lysacek, Tara Lipinski and I had the privilege of visiting the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) Tuesday afternoon to ring The Closing Bell.

As guests of Coca-Cola, Evan, Tara and I were especially interested in visiting the Coca-Cola booth since we figured their trader would take a little extra time to explain how the Stock Exchange operated. Mike, the Coca-Cola trader, exceeded our expectations and graciously explained how clients now buy and sell stocks through the computer, something quite different than just a few years back.

When I rang The Opening Bell back in 2002, briefly after the Salt Lake games, the floor was bustling with noise, motion and papers flying everywhere. It was pure (and I was assured "organized") chaos! Mike remembers that time too. He started on the floor in 2001, right after college and said he is one of the few who has been at the NYSE long enough to see all the changes. He was actually impressed I had remembered as much of the floor as I did. What can I say? It's not every day a high school kid gets to be in the middle of the trading floor mayhem on a school day.

"When I first started," Mike explained. "If someone wanted to buy or sell Coca-Cola, they had to come directly to this station. And there were two guys behind that desk (right behind his booth) helping me out." Today, Mike runs the show on the floor by himself, surrounded only by computer screens, ones that don't flash as furiously as I remember. He says the finance business has steadily became more dependent on electronics since then, and in 2007, about four years ago, switched to trading solely through the wires, making the excitement of human commotion and the ticker tape parade of papers flying about dip drastically.

But don't think this technological efficiency has led to our Coca-Cola NYSE representative to having an easier job. "I used to only trade Coke. Now I'm in charge of 30 more companies."

The big talk on the floor today was about the merger of Deutsche Boerse AG and NYSE Euronet. Under the new business agreement, the companies combine to create the largest venue for capital raising and equities trading, and the world leader in derivatives trading and risk management. Apparently the negotiations, which have been going on for the past year, have been so secretive that the top brass as the NYSE were not privy until today's press release. A name for the new company has yet to be decided.

Even with all this change and hoopla, one person who seemed to be disappointed by the lack of external stimuli was Evan. There are only few places as loud and noisy as in the moments after of delivering an Olympic winning performance! Speaking of which, he will celebrate his one year anniversary next week. When this was noted earlier today, he received a round of applause from all of us. Hard to believe a whole year has passed since his Vancouver win, hasn't it?

After Evan, Tara and I ceremoniously rung the bell to signal the closing of the market, Evan took his medal out for anyone who wanted to see it (everyone did, including me!) as our traveling trio took photos with many of the traders, business reporters and longtime supporters of U.S. Figure Skating.

As exciting it was to learn about the NYSE -- and ring The Closing Bell in what will go down as a significant date in NYSE history, it is just as important to honor and bring attention to the people we lost in the 1961 crash with a strong, iconic American company such as Coca-Cola by our side.

RISE, a documentary on the 1961 team featuring storytellers Peggy Flemming, Dorothy Hamill, Scott Hamilton, Brain Boitano and Michelle Kwan will be released on Thurs., Feb. 17, in select theaters nationwide. The storytellers and many other skating luminaries will take part in a live event held in Times Square. I hope you'll join me and my fellow skaters in honoring the people who helped shape our sport into what it is today.

You can learn more at RISE1961.com.