"MF DNES" November 8, 2004

Prague - Cheat. Robbery. They lied to the audience. The absolute top of inability. They made fun of us. This is how the audience reacted to the figure skating show Art on Ice in Prague's Sazka Arena. They were whistling and stamping. The star - because of what they came to the show - didn't skate: three time world champion Evgeni Plushenko.

"I'm sorry," he said Friday from the podium. "Because of a serious reason I can't perform. It's a shock for me, the hardest day in my career, the hardest day in my life."

Why didn't he skate? Nine thousand of people in the audience didn't get the answer, just little suggestions. Evening's introducer Leos Mares told them: "They forbade him to perform." But who? Nobody explained to the audience and to the press.

"We're angry but I can't give you any statement. I don't know all the details," reacted Plushenko's manager Ari Zakarian to our question.

According to well informed sources of MF DNES, the ban came from the Russian FS Federation as an order from the ISU.

Only reacting at the upfront question, the organizers admitted this fact yesterday. "There was the ISU behind this all. We have our proofs. It was their revenge because Plushenko refused to compete at Grand Prix event in Japan," said Roberto Cosso, promoter of the Czech part of Art on Ice.

The organizers ignored possible risk of concerns' conflict. That's why some spectators brought a suit against the promoter for deceiving promotion and cheat.

MF DNES' sources stated that complications were already in August. The ISU nominated Plushenko for Japanese Grand Prix which had to take place in the same week as the Prague's Art on Ice.

Plushenko withdrew from Grand Prix in September. He said his knee injury isn't healed completely. In spite of this, Art on Ice promoters started the promotion, in which 15 skaters had to perform, based only on Plushenko and Gloria Gaynor. Their billboards and posters ran around the Czech Republic.

Sazka Arena Manager Ales Husak was afraid indeed that possible Plushenko's absence would hurt arena's name and reputation. That's why he insisted on written guarantee that (Plushenko) will skate. And he received it on Tuesday actually.

But on Friday morning the fatal fax came up: the ban from the Russian FS Federation. Plushenko called Moscow all the long but it was no good. At 5:30 he got the definitive "no". Federation President Valentin Piseev had to threat him: "If he'd skate in Prague, we'll suspend him from the team." The show started two hours later. In the very beginning the promoter Cosso informed the audience: "Plushenko isn't allowed to skate tonight."

In total to 67 spectators who immediately left the show were returned the ticket money. The others got nothing

"The others misused the situation. They watched whole the show and yelled that it's a cheat. This is not a serious deal," said Cosso.

Plushenko's two numbers were played from the afternoon record at the TV above the ice.

The skater came up to apologize for the second time to the audience. "Sorry, guys," he said in English. "I'm really sorry."

At first there was an applause, but the whistling too again. The Russian broke down backstage and cried. He left the arena before the end and refused all requests for an interview.

The tickets for the Prague show were worth from 590 crowns up to 1190 crowns. "It's three times cheaper than in the Switzerland," said the artistic manager Oliver Honer. Plushenko's fee was worth 15 thousand Euro.

"He didn't go to Grand Prix because for he injury he started his preparation later than usually. But he needed to skate in front of the audience. That's why he wanted to perform in our show." This year's premiere of Art on Ice in the Czech Republic Honer took for good investment for the future. "The costs took 400 thousand Euro. We can't cover it but we want to go back. When people will see that this show is good, we'll find the Czech sponsors too," he said Friday morning.

But the effect was pretty the other way round.

The people lost their faith.

Reader under nick Polinko wrote ironically on our server "When I'm going to Sting's concert, they'll play the hi-fi and Sting will sit on the podium - and this will be OK in fact."


Prague (tm) - Roberto Cosso, the Italian living in the Czech Republic, manager of the company Zaffiro, was promoter of the Prague's show Art on Ice. He has to deal with spectators' anger now.

- They brought a suit against you. What do you think about it?

- That my lawyers will deal with it. I am not a lawyer. The court will decide.

- Of course. But you are accusing the ISU.

- And it's all ISU's fault. It uses disgusting mafia ways. They gave the impuls to the Russian FS Federation in order to ban Plushenko from skating. It was their vengeance for his refusal to skate in Japan.

- But you were saying the day after the show that you don't know who banned Plushenko from skating in Prague. Our sources say that you were very well informed.

- I was just respecting the wish of Plushenko's manager, who wanted me not to talk about it.

- You knew about time conflict with Grand Prix. Wasn't it a deceiving promotion when you based your Prague show's promotion on Plushenko?

- We had a deal with him. And how many cases when ISU banned somebody from performing were in the past? Less than five per cent.

- The spectators say that you deceived them.

- That's not true! We didn't!

- The people weren't deceived?

- Our lawyers will look at this. Somebody has to have the responsibility. The one who hurt our name and trustworth of Mr. Plushenko.

- He received the definitive "no" on Friday at 5:30 pm. Why didn't you tell it the audience already in front of the arena then?

- We said it in the arena. Two hours don't play any role. Who wanted to leave, he left. And got his money back.

- The others didn't.

- It wasn't fair. They misused the situation. They started to rave after they saw the show.

Translated by Zuzana (Nougatte)



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