DATELINE / ST. PETERSBURG : Kelly Passes Boiling Point Over Arena’s Lack of Ice
Goodwill Games President Jack Kelly, who not only has deferred to members of the St. Petersburg Organizing Committee but defended them against criticism from the local and foreign media, finally lost his cool. That gave him something in common with the Yubileiny Sports Palace.
After being assured by local organizers for more than 48 hours that there would be ice at Yubileiny in time for Tuesday’s short-track speedskating, Kelly was frustrated when the event had to be moved to another arena, the SKA Ice Palace, one hour before the competition was scheduled to begin.
So Kelly was in no mood to listen when they again assured him afterward that one of the Goodwill Games’ premier events, figure skating, would begin as scheduled at Yubileiny Wednesday night.
Instead of taking their word for it, he and St. Petersburg’s deputy mayor, Vitali Mutko, kept a vigil inside the rink until the early-morning hours Wednesday.
“We watched it very, very slowly add ice,” Kelly said.
After another unsatisfactory check at 8 a.m., Kelly called a news conference, preempting the local organizers by announcing that the start of the figure skating would be postponed until tonight and that the SKA Ice Palace was being prepared for the competition.
When they met for their regular session in the afternoon, the local organizers did not agree. They recognized that the competition would have to be postponed but were still holding out hope that it could be held at Yubileiny.
Kelly remains skeptical. “Their specialists appear to not be specialists,” he said.
Those who work with Kelly said they have seldom seen him so demoralized. After 35 trips here in advance of the Goodwill Games, he had faith that the local organizers would be able to pull them off. He certainly did not believe that they would be the fiasco they have become. He might have been the last believer.