By Mike Rowbottom

Sheffield ISU_European_Championships_January_2012January 22 - Sheffield becomes the centre of the ice skating world this week as it hosts the ISU European Figure Skating Championships 2012 arrive in the city – the first time this event has been held in the UK for over 20 years.

The city where Britain's former Olympic ice dance champions Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean famously scored maximum sixes for artistic impression as they marked their amateur comeback by becoming British champions in 1994 stands ready for further historic achievement.

Motorpoint Arena, operated by the Sheffield International Venues (SIV) will play host to one of the biggest events in the ice skating calendar which will see 200 elite international skaters from 39 countries descend on the city to compete in ladies, men, pairs and dance disciplines.

The seven-day event is expected to draw in crowds of up to 15,000 with 5,000 school children also due to attend following the launch of a targeted education programme for the event, with the highlight set to be the return to the ice of Russia's Yevgeny Plushenko. 

Plushenko (pictured), the 2006 Olympic and six-time European champion, has not competed in an international competition since taking silver at Vancouver 2010 and a good performance at Sheffield will help convince him to launch a challenge for Sochi 2014. 

Yevgeny Plushenko_Vancouver_2010
The European Championships will use over 100 local volunteers throughout the week-long figure skating action.

The event also brings the local skating community together with 100 young skaters performing at the opening ceremony and gala events during the competition.

Europeans ambassador, 1980 Olympic champion and National Ice Skating Association (NISA) vice-president, Robin Cousins, has choreographed the routine and has been rehearsing with the group at iceSheffield.

He commented: "It is about time we had a major skating championship here and from the ticket sales it's going to be a huge hit.

"I think it is exceeding expectations and what's fun is that this gives local kids, and those who have travelled from further away, a chance to be a part of the opening ceremony on the Wednesday and also Sunday's gala where they will perform again."

The NIS have worked in partnership with SIV, Sheffield City Council's Major Sports Event Unit, Welcome to Yorkshire and UK Sport to bring the European Championships to Sheffield.

UK Sport Head of Major Events, Esther Nicholls, said: "UK Sport is proud to be supporting the ISU European Figure Skating Championships in Sheffield through our National Lottery supported Major Events Programme, and we are looking forward to what will be a spectacular event staged in partnership with NISA and Sheffield City Council.

"Sheffield is a fantastic sporting city, with some of the UK's most impressive venues, and the ISU European Figure Skating Championships will be the 16th event UK Sport has supported here since 2007.

"The staging of this event has allowed UK Sport to bring together a strong partnership of the national governing body of sport, NISA, the host city Sheffield and UK government's major events agency, UK Sport. We look forward to working together again to bring more events to the UK, following the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games."

With the city welcoming figure skating enthusiasts from around the world, it is expected that the economic impact for Sheffield will exceed over £1.5 million with most city based hotels seeing good business.

Sheffield ready_for_ISU_European_Championships_January_22_2012
Councillor Helen Mirfin-Boukouris, Sheffield City Council's Cabinet Member for Business, Jobs and Growth, said: "This is great news for Sheffield. With the event bringing so many spectators to the city from all over Europe, it will give a huge boost to the local economy.

"We very much hope that seeing the best competitors from 37 European countries come to our city will serve as further inspiration to people in Sheffield to get involved in sport.

"With ticket sales exceeding all expectations and over 20 hours of BBC coverage of the event in Sheffield planned, as well as live television coverage in 14 other European countries, this is set to be a fantastic event for the city."

The European Championships will use two venues in Sheffield with iceSheffield, the National Figure Skating Centre, acting as a practice rink for competitors over the course of the week's events.

Steve Brailey, chief executive, SIV, said: "Sheffield has a proud heritage of ice sports and it is hugely exiting to be hosting such a high profile event. SIV is delighted to be playing such a key role in the Championships, which will bring skaters, coaches, judges and spectators to Sheffield providing a significant boost to the city's economy.

"Very few UK or European cities can boast two superb ice venues in such close proximity – a key reason for Sheffield's selection – which highlights the importance of investment in facilities such as iceSheffield and the Motorpoint Arena."

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