1996 World Figure Skating Championships
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1994 - 1996
With a television audience of an estimated 177 million viewers, the 1996 World Figure Skating Championships was the largest international sporting event held in Edmonton since at least the 1978 Commonwealth Games. In addition to the approximately 220 athletes and 600-700 international media, the local organising committee expected that there would be 15-20,000 visitors to Edmonton during the week of March 17 to 24, with an economic spin-off of approximately $50 million.|The effort to bring the World Championships to Edmonton began soon after Halifax hosted the 1990 World Championships, when local skating supporters proposed to the Canadian Figure Skating Association (CFSA) that Edmonton be the next Canadian city to host the event. Once the Edmonton organising committee, a voluntary body chaired by Don Sprague, won the endorsement of the CFSA, it was only a matter of time before the city would host the World Championships. Nevertheless, it was still up to the International Skating Union (ISU) to decide when Canada would be next in the rotation. Though the Edmonton committee bid for the 1994 and 1995 Worlds, it was really interested in 1996: it was a non-Olympic year, but skaters were beginning to gear up for the next Olympics. Because Edmonton had been selected to host the 1994 Canadian Championships in anticipation of hosting the worlds, it was no real surprise when, in 1993, the ISU finally announced that the city would host the 1996 World Figure Skating Championships. The CFSA and the ISU saw the Canadian championships as an opportunity for the city and the organising committee to test their plans, work out the bugs, and identify potential problems and opportunities.|Following the 1994 Olympics, the popularity of international figure skating had skyrocketed to the extent that the scale of the World Championships was to far exceed what the Edmonton committee or the CFSA expected when they began the bid process for the event in 1990. Therefore, the local organising committee had little precedent to guide their planning. Building on their experience with the 1994 Canadian Championships, the local organising committee designed the event as a huge festival to showcase both skating and the city. The demand for tickets was phenomenal, with the main events selling out in 72 hours, a full year before the event. In order to keep up with this demand, the committee organised associated activities throughout the city, with the main focus of the events remaining downtown and at Northlands. The skating competition added to the excitement. Canadian Elvis Stojko was heavily favoured to win the men's championship on home-soil, and the women's event still had a tint of scandal associated with it. Once the championships ended, Edmonton had set attendance records for the worlds and was widely credited with staging excellent World Championships.
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