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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Finally, Sweltering Petersburg Gets Iced

ST. PETERSBURG -- After days of confusion and wrangling over venues and ice-making, the Goodwill Games figure skating competition finally began Thursday.


Although the first pair took the ice 24 hours behind schedule, it was still a victory for Russian organizers in their battle to save face by holding the competition at its original venue.


After a brief but colorful opening ceremony at the brightly decorated Yubileiny Sports Palace, the pairs' technical program began, followed by the men's technical program and the ice-dance compulsories.


The 7,000-seat rink was more than 60 percent full, making it one of the best attended events at the Games so far.


The setting was a far cry from the spartan conditions at the SKA rink, which was nearly called into use as the backup facility.


Yubileiny was rescued by a new cooling technology, borrowed from the Russian subway system and never before used on ice rinks here, that was called in at the last minute and was able at last to produce a satisfactory surface.


The Russians could work no such miracles with the wind, however. Calm conditions on the Gulf of Finland threatened to postpone the yachting schedule for the second consecutive day.


"It's looking awfully dismal," said Barby MacGowan of the U.S. yachting federation. "It's as smooth as glass. I talked to some locals and they say they've never seen it like this."


The hosts were having no luck on the basketball court, either. The U.S. women's team, led by 20 points from forward Lisa Leslie, rolled to a 77-63 victory over Russia.


The lack of wind was no problem at the Krestovsky Island Rowing Canal, where Russians won two golds and three silvers and the Americans a silver and a bronze in the three kayak and two canoe races.


Americans Mike Harbold and Peter Newton took silver in the men's K-2 1,000-meter race, while Michael Herbert won bronze over the same distance in the men's K-1 class.


The resolution of the skating venue saga ended 24 hours of confusion that saw the Games' American owners battle with Russian bureaucratic intransigence over whether the event should be moved to SKA, a local hockey hall.


The competition was put back a day to Thursday, but the decision on where it would take place was twice postponed as the Russians insisted the ice at Yubileiny could be made ready.


In the end, the Russians came through, even if it was a day late.


Kelly said the ice-making problems at Yubileiny, which hosted boxing until last Saturday, were solved by a break in the heat wave that has hit St. Petersburg, application of the new technology, and, after days of little progress, a "proper level of management and attention" from the local organizers. "There was obviously some skepticism about trying an untried technology, but obviously the results speak for themselves," Kelly said.