Sport on the Internet

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The Independent Online
THE LAST time that the World Figure Skating Championships were hosted by Helsinki, Finland, in 1983, Torvill and Dean successfully won their third consecutive gold in the ice dancing. Since then the Russians have had a virtual monopoly on that discipline. To see if there's any change, and what's also happening in the other disciplines, the official site for the final World Championships of the millennium which starts today at the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki is worth bookmarking.

The results table, which is in place for when competition gets under way, looks comprehensive and should provide easy links to full details. But the site offers more than a results service. For one thing, it is looking ahead to the 2006 Winter Olympics, with details of the joint bid by Helsinki, Lahti and Lillehammer endorsed by President Martti Antisaari.

It also gives an overview of the city's culture and history. There's a web camera looking out over the capital. Sometimes it's even switched on. If you have the Cosmo Player Virtual Reality plug-in in your browser, you can take virtual tours of city sites such as the swimming pool and the Olympic stadium. If you don't have it, there's a link to its download site. It's a start in using the Web's interactivity capabilities, perhaps in the future they might use something similar to explain the intricacies of the manoeuvres involved on the ice.

The appeal of those manoeuvres is under discussion in Figure Skater's Waltz, where Matt Bynum looks at the issue of whether figure skating is a sport or an art. The status of technical and aesthetic pursuits as sport is an old debate, where firm opinions either way are the norm. It's doubtful whether Bynum will convince the sceptics who demand a traditional testosterone- adrenalin base as the defining characteristics of sport, but the arguments are there, none the less.

The sports site SLAM! is in no doubt that figure skating is a bona fide sport. Although it is based in Canada, it's not parochial. For daily news on the sport, as opposed to the professional figure skating circuit, it's a good source of hard information about the international scene. Its features have a more North American slant, but that's not entirely surprising since Canada's Elvis Stojko has won three of the last five men's titles and is on the comeback trail at Helsinki after tearing a groin muscle in the Nagano Olympics last year.

SkateWeb is the place for an alternative take on skating. It has links to assorted unofficial championships sites, fan pages and message boards for those who like the web to be more than a one-way medium. It also has some material such as features on the music used by skaters.

If you did not realise that there's a literature of figure skating, SkateWeb will put you on the right track. One example is an on-going science fiction story about the quest of Kyle, a half-human skater, for an Interstellar medal. The author has only got as far as chapter 13 so far. Helsinki's results will be known well before those relating to Kyle.

Site Addresses

Official World Figure Skating Championships

http://www.figureskate99.fi/engindex.html

Figure Skater's Waltz

http://www.connecti.com/bynum/mb-skater.html

SLAM! Figure Skating

http://www.canoe.ca/SlamSkating/

Skate Web

http://frog.simplenet.com/skateweb/

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