The International Skating Union (ISU) will next month debut a new annual festival that aims to open up the accessibility of ice-skating sports through a series of events across the world.
The inaugural World Ice Skating Day (WISD) will take place on December 4 with a mission to reunite ice skating professionals, amateurs, beginners and newcomers to break social, economic and cultural boundaries and to ultimately encourage greater inclusion, youth involvement and future development of all ice skating disciplines.
First announced in September, WISD coordinator for the ISU, Ashley Arthingal, told Fan XP that the response to the concept has been “overwhelmingly positive”.
He added: “We have local and national level WISD events planned on all the continents. Around 30 countries have registered for the WISD and every country, national federation, club or rink at both national or local levels are doing some kind of activation on this special day.
“The common theme is to provide free skating initiations for first timers and beginners so that ice-skating reaches a wider, and most importantly a newer audience that may not have easy access to ice rinks.”
A wide-ranging concept
The concept of WISD stemmed from the idea of popularising and spreading the spirit of ice skating worldwide, through a celebration, with a vision towards development, inclusion and fairness. To achieve these goals, the ISU’s primary focus is on bringing more children and young people to the ice by connecting them with local rinks, clubs and national skating federations.
Secondly, the WISD aims to expand ice skating to every country, even those not known for winter sports, empowering them to develop ice skating disciplines by setting up pop-up rinks, or initiatives that attract a new audience and raise awareness of the power and importance of sport in benefiting physical and mental health.
To this end, a diverse range of events and activities are being planned across the globe.
For example, Thailand will celebrate WISD by organising an ‘Ice Skating Sports Day’, combining two disciplines – figure skating and short track. The event will be broadcast live on social media platforms to help further promote the sports and reach a larger audience.
Meanwhile, the Ice Skating Association of India, with support from the ISU and Himachal Pradesh state government, is planning to organise a three-day festival of ice skating in the town of Sissu.
There will be a competitive element at the WISD in Kazakhstan, which will be held in connection with the Astana Open Speed Skating Championship.
Across South Africa, ice skating will be promoted at all the country’s rinks at the same time, on the same day. Meanwhile, Poland’s celebration of WISD will include free classes with professional coaches for people of all skill levels, plus games and activities with prizes. Between classes, top Polish skaters will present their programmes in figure skating shows.
There will also be special events in the ISU’s home country of Switzerland, with Vaudoise Arena in Lausanne opening its doors to the public for free skating lessons and a free public skating hour. The local Club des Patineurs Lausanne Malley will conduct training workshops and stage an exhibition featuring their local skaters.
“The common theme that binds all the WISD events worldwide is the fact that they are all motivated to share their passion of ice-skating sports with everyone in their local communities,” said Arthingal.
“This may come through providing free initiation skating sessions to young kids, making the necessary equipment available either free or at an affordable rate, offering sessions on skill development for amateur or recreational skaters, free public skating with music, or an exhibition or gala featuring renowned skaters from that region interspersed with food trucks or refreshment corners.
“To create a global festival, on a local level and bring different communities and levels of skating together to create something memorable for the entire family – this is the spirit of the World Ice Skating Day.”
A long-term vision
All ISU members, along with national skating rinks and clubs, have been invited to join the WISD venture by registering their local initiatives on a dedicated website for World Ice Skating Day.
In support of events planning and promotion, the ISU is providing a WISD toolkit containing ready-to-use artwork for venue branding, printing material, digital marketing assets, merchandise, and a guide for event ideas.
To further drive the launch of WISD, the ISU has engaged Elladj Baldé as its global ambassador for the concept. Baldé competed as a figure skater for Canada from 2006 to 2018 and now has a prominent presence on social media and as a leading voice championing diversity and inclusivity in his sport.
Looking to the future, the ISU is seeking to establish the first Sunday of December as the calendar slot to showcase its various disciplines to the world. Arthingal added: “The ISU has laid the impetus on providing free skating sessions to young and beginner skaters. That is the core vision of this initiative.
“In the advent of modern technology, esports and gaming, the ISU encourages the idea of kids getting out to go to their local rinks, have a memorable day out with their peers and family and enjoy this sport whilst learning about it in a fun and safe environment.
“At the same time, this day is an ode to the ice-skating lovers all over the world, of all age groups, retired or competitive, it is one day for everyone to celebrate their love for their beautiful sport or to discover this wonderful and fun activity.
“The key objectives are to make ice-skating sports accessible to everyone in a fun and safe environment – for first-timers, amateurs, professionals or retired competitive skaters – by creating a memorable experience for the entire family and sharing the passion for the sports, especially that magical gliding feeling so unique to ice-skating.”
Image credit: ISU
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