Is it the Olympics? Or the sequins? Ice dance fever hits UK

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The Independent Online

The Winter Olympics are drawing to a close in Turin today, but the impact of the Games could be felt in Britain for a generation. For figure skating is witnessing a surge in popularity unlike anything seen since the days of Torvill and Dean.

The outfits at the Games may have been more outlandish than ever and there has been a lack of British success, but that has not deterred young hopefuls from taking to the rinks in records numbers.

Across Britain, ice hockey players and curlers are growing irate as excited teenagers attempt double salchows. But figure skating officials are hopeful that the boom will mean a medal bonanza at future Games.

New figures reveal that in the past year there has been a 40 per cent increase in the number of skaters at ice rinks. Several have reported running out of pairs of skates to hire. The number of seasonal outdoor ice rinks has risen from just two in 2001 to more than 30 this winter.

The viewing figures for the skating events at this year's Games have been higher than at any time since Torvill and Dean last competed in the Olympics in 1994 in Lillehammer.

But the upturn in the sport's fortunes are also being credited to a Saturday night television show, Dancing on Ice, that has seen celebrities such as David Seamen try out their skating skills.

Christopher Dean said he was amazed at the growing popularity of the sport he excelled in. "Dancing on Ice has been a part of it," he said. "People are seeing what can be done in a short period of time. Hopefully there will be kids taking it up who, a few years down the road, will be competing on the world stage."

The emergence of a new, young British couple has also had an impact. Brother and sister John and Sinead Kerr finished 10th in the ice dancing in Turin last week and are tipped for a medal at the next Games in 2010.

Parents be warned: aspiring medallists may have to dress like a peacock to win gold. This year's overly elaborate costumes proved too much for former Olympic champion Robin Cousins, who said the costumes are now so outlandish that "you need to be wearing dark glasses to watch them".

THE END OF THE WINTER OLYMPICS

15,000 police officers were deployed during the Games

£57m was spent by Italian authorities on the security operations

One athletetested positive for drugs: Russian biathlete Olga Pyleva

4.9m BBC2 viewers watched the ice dancing final

One medal was won by Britain: Shelley Rudman (silver)

The 2006 Winter Olympics closes tonight after 16 days of competition. There has been no repeat of the heroics that propelled Britain's women's curling team to gold in Salt Lake City four years ago. They crashed out in the group stage, while the men narrowly missed out on a bronze. On the ski slopes, the British highlight was Chemmy Alcott, who came 11th

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