Ari Zakaryan is one of the most talented businessmen in figure skating. About 30 years, he helps athletes earn money, organizes their performances in shows. Last season, immediately after the World Cup, the ISU Skating Awards was supposed to be held, the idea of which was proposed by Zakaryan.
In a large interview with the YouTube channel MITKoff, Zakaryan talked about the fallen incomes of the skaters, the competition between Zagitova and Medvedeva, the future of the Ice Oscars and even made a forecast for the 2022 Olympics.
Coronavirus in the USA
Now there are already a lot of cars. In the last week the whole city is in full swing, everyone is driving somewhere, some traffic jams appear, there is a dense traffic. Buildings go, built a football stadium of insanely beautiful. I heard that the opening was supposed to be in July, the match “Barcelona” – “Real”. But, of course, it will not be.
A huge casino complex is also being built on the Las Vegas Strip, there will be thematic casinos: the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, London and some other – there will be a huge network. Restaurants began to work in residential areas – as if in Khimki. (Laughs)
To say that Vegas has turned into a ghost is, of course, difficult. Recently I watched an interview of a Georgian reporter on the main Russian federal channel, where he showed the dead Las Vegas, people cry, they die, they don’t have money, they don’t give anyone anything, everyone has debts – well, no.
In America, everyone was immediately given $ 1200. They said last week they would give another $ 2,000. There are so many different programs. Some of my friends received a loan of $ 500 thousand. People who had a business received tangible financial investments. As I was told, a loan is either at 1% or interest-free – such things happen.
Suspended payments for rental apartments, houses – 2-3 months, you can not pay for anything. Someone called the bank and said that there would not be a year to pay back the loan – they said “good.” That is, no one will evict anyone, etc.
For comparison: I have been living here since January, when I came to prepare for the World Cup. And today I received a message from Rostelecom that if I don’t pay the debt (7 thousand rubles) for the Internet in my St. Petersburg apartment during the day, they will sue. But I didn’t even follow, I didn’t think that at such a time for these 7 thousand rubles they would drag me to the courts.
There are a lot of different programs. You can get food stamps – $ 350, there is medicine, there are programs to support the unemployed – you apply, and the state considers how much it considers it necessary to support you – $ 100-300 per month plus $ 600 every week. Thus, for these three months you can get $ 3-30 thousand, depending on how someone filled out the application. I also filled out, recently received. That is, in order to eat, live and not starve to death, the state pays for all this.
How will sport and the world as a whole change?
The world will definitely change. When everything started to happen, I can’t even convey all the sensations that I had, and the disappointment that everything is happening. It was a strong blow for me – both physically, and morally, and materially.
Many say that it will throw us back before two years, someone up to ten. Some say that this was to be expected, because every 10 years something happens. Someone says that nature has punished everyone – there are different options. My opinion: we all suffered very much. Some time has come to reboot. You sit, think about life, try to understand what is further than what to do. What if there is no figure skating at all. Everything is possible. Unfortunately, our sport has crouched so much lately, as they say. There are a lot of problems with our sport, precisely in the geography of its existence. This World Cup, which was to be held in Canada, it was to become a kind of triumph, the rise of figure skating.
I believe that we were hit hard. I’m talking about my business. Restaurants, other businesses are also likely, but I’m talking about figure skating now. Now, if everything was normal, a tour in Japan (Fantasy on Ice) should begin. A cool team was assembled, a very good show, the guys would earn, we would not lag behind. Many shows were planned in Europe, in Russia, in different countries and continents. But now there will be nothing, all these guys are now trying to teach Zoom by doing some kind of lessons, doing physical training. Guys, well done try, but this is not at all.
Figure Skating Reforms
Our next important event was to be the ISU Congress in Thailand, where we all must adopt new rules, meet, communicate, decide how to move on. Unfortunately, this does not and will not happen.
Recently, new rules have been released, the cost of jumping has changed – for some this is good, for others it is bad. But one point with which I absolutely disagree: now a quad axel can only cost a point higher than the same quadruple flip. It is, for example, as if you run a hundred-meter race in 5 seconds or 10 seconds, and in both cases they will give you a gold medal. But no one notices that you ran in 5 seconds.
This jump is so traumatic, it needs serious preparation. No wonder many loners did not try to perform quadruples until 2010, because they take away a lot of strength and concentration. There are a lot of skaters who made the quadruple jump, and then fell apart the whole program, because there was not enough energy.
Yes, now is a different time, now the quad is almost all skaters have in their arsenal. But the quadruple axel is an upward movement, in general a different era. Without giving any bonus (total point with a penny), it is clear that only some outstanding guys, Nathan Chen or Yuzuru Hanyu, can go for this element for their prestige and name. Just to say that he was the first.
In my opinion, such an element should cost at least 20-22 points, not 12. This is the only thing that has affected me so much. Everything else can be disputed, said whether it is good or bad. But I am always in favor of moving as far as possible, setting records.
Will the season take place?
ISU and local organizations have not yet canceled anything specific from the tournaments, trying to stay optimistic. But, as we see, already two junior stages of the Grand Prix have been canceled.
This is a very difficult task, because we do not know how we will flow back into life. At the moment, someone is opening something somewhere, some kind of positive has gone, some have not closed at all. But the general tension and aura of the coronavirus so far sit very deep. Over the past three months, the TV has so deeply stuck a nail of coronavirus into our heads … How much we can pull out this nail, how much the TV will change the rhetoric in the news – this is of great importance.
The fact that people are sick, people are dying, this is obvious, you can not hide. But how everything goes, I still can not say.
After a week, it is unlikely that everything will go gradually, open slowly. I know that skating rinks have already opened in Germany, only three coaches are allowed – on the side, skaters – only ten people. Each school will probably have its own regulations on this issue. To say for sure whether there will be competitions, I do not think that anyone will be able to specifically answer now.
There are also organizational issues. For example, to hold some stage of the Grand Prix in the same America. This year it was also to be held in Las Vegas, as in the past. This is the competition in October. Usually, if you are doing such a big event, at least six months in advance, you should already have an arena at your disposal, pay rent, have certain arrangements. Therefore, all logistics, a hotel, a road are already underway, tickets, contracts, visas are bought. But now we have these difficulties – the borders are closed.
Suppose the guys will compete in empty arenas, but they also need to fly there. And we do not know how this will happen. Someone closed the borders for six months, someone did not close. Everything will be introduced gradually, it all depends on the rules, aircraft, borders. After all, it is necessary that the skaters even begin to train, now the guys are mostly sitting. But now it is the end of May, and then June – July, preparations should already be in full swing.
ISU Skating Awards
First of all, this idea came … Don’t think that I am the only good fellow who thought about this. But somehow we went with Sasha Ovechkin to Las Vegas – for the traditional NHL award at the end of the season. And now, this whole organization, how it all looked, this aura, how hockey players came with their friends, wives, children, all dressed up, beautiful, this red carpet, a bunch of journalists, fans, everyone screaming and trying to break through … It looked so cool , I got such a charge. I sit, watch this show, how they award, they show highlights on TV, he gives gratitude speeches … Good, but standard.
I realized that figure skating is the only sport that can make a cool show out of awards; it could be a completely different level. Of course, from that moment I already started punching, talking at congresses. I spoke very thoroughly at the previous three, I had the whole presentation made. Initially, I called each nomination the name of a famous former coach, I took the prototype as in hockey. By this I also wanted to turn the history of figure skating so that people would know, for example, who Axel, Salkhov, Lutz are, that these are not jumps, but real skaters. I wanted the skaters to know now where they came from. For example, many famous Olympic champions do not know the great skaters of the 20th century.
This is a show and a story. The thought was like that. What is the history, traditions, power of this sport, show its strength, capabilities. Attract show business. What is figure skating? This is music, and costumes, and choreography. For football, for example, you cannot attract a choreographer, music. Okay, there may still be a suit, but we have a suit – this is a design work, here the battle of designers would go on. Cavalli, Dolce Gabbana, Yudashkin – they could compete, who is better.
One ingenious American producer once told me that the coolest show is when the competition is in progress. When a person seeks to beat another, it pulls you up. When just a show is just fun. Therefore, all these reality shows with exits to the finals have such success.
In the beginning, when I spoke at the congress under Chiquant, they simply listened to me, such as “sit down, Vovochka, five.” Well, I started talking to each person individually, showing, telling. He sat down at dinner with someone, talked. With each individually, with Americans, Japanese, Canadians, Europeans. In general, in this situation we had very good relations with ours, I always received support. And collected this puzzle.
ISU is a very conservative organization, they are very afraid to take any drastic steps, they must definitely check everything a hundred times so that everything is absolutely clear. So it took so long.
I perfectly remember the day when they said that we were doing the award. It was at the world championships in Japan last season. The first to congratulate me was my good friend of the Turks Albert, who is in the technical committee. He first came running, hugged me, said that everything is accurate, accepted and approved. The second was the Canadian Federation – they said that for sure everything we will do is indicative with an ice Oscar. Further work has already gone.
My very good friend Oliver Hener, the organizer of Art on ice, was invited. He, in my opinion, is the best organizer in the world – precisely in the context that I have in mind. There are a lot of good organizers, I would not like to offend anyone.
And now Oliver became a member, and we began a dense daily work to do everything very well. He did a tremendous job, we flew to Montreal, where the arena is awesome. Before the start of this rabid coronavirus, everything was sold out, all tickets were sold long before the World Cup, the hype was very strong. There, both the stage and the fan part, ice was made, a huge installation. It was supposed to be the apotheosis of figure skating, the fireworks of our sport.
About financial losses due to cancellation of the premium
A lot of work has been done. There are flights, and transfers, and dinner payment. Everything was paid by ISU. Yes, I could get a lot of dividends. A completely different path would open for skaters and not only skaters. I think that we would increase the financial capabilities of our sport by 30 percent. And this is only a minimum.
We will be doing the ISU Awards online. In a month it will be clear when it will pass. Unfortunately, only in a virtual format. Of course, I would like to see the ISU Awards powerful and pathos. I wanted everyone to learn about figure skating, to understand the meaning of this sport.
The next world championship is in Sweden. We will begin work on the next show when we hold the ISU Awards in an online format. If you take a 100-point system, it will be 40-50. We cannot show that power, but we will strive.
I don’t know the names of the winners of this year. This is a vote. We have finalists, but the winners were to be determined by people who were going to fly to Montreal. Now the jury will do everything online. A platform where winners should be officially announced is being developed.
About your coolest deals
There are a lot of stories and figures. I’ll tell you about those in which I was very pleased with myself. There is such a professional couple – Elena Leonova / Andrey Khvalko. Met them when they performed on the Disney on ice show. Although their level was much higher. It was the beginning of the 90s. I saw them and said: “Guys, let’s try to leave Disney”. We will do other things. ”
They then lived in San Francisco. I called them and asked if they could come to Sun Valley, Idaho. My good friend from Germany Daniel Weiss arrived there, who at that time held good German shows – about 20 a year. I say: “Please come. Let him look at you. ” The guys hardly thought, jumped into the car and arrived in 8-9 hours. We went on the ice, skated. After that, Daniel said: “Cool, I take them.” And they began to perform successfully and even became two-time world champions among professionals. And I’m proud of myself.
There was also a Swiss skater Lucinda Ruch. Working with her was very interesting. At the amateur level, she was 13th at the World Cup. I struck her at a professional World Cup, where she became a medalist. Managed to push her straight to the Tom Collins Champions on Ice show. True, for one season.
It is clear that among these stories is Zhenya Plushenko. This is another life, another book.
But my most powerful trick was with the acrobat guys Vladimir Besedin and Alexei Polishchuk. They are my friends, by the way. I am godfather at Besedin. Came to Tom Collins and offered to look at the guys. He replies: “No, what are you. My stars are rolling. ” I propose: “Let’s make such a deal: I give you ten thousand dollars and bring them to the show. If you do not like it, the money remains with you. If you like, you and I make a contract. ” He says, “Come on.” The guys arrived, performed. And until the very last breath of the Champions on Ice show, they were one of its leading artists. I am proud of that deal.
Earnings for figure skaters and agents
This is not the money to become a wealthy person. Figure skating agent is a very meager business. Absolutely not the numbers that get, say, hockey agents. However, this is painstaking work. A completely different job.
And now the market is not the same. This is not the 90s, when the guys received 200-300 thousand dollars for one performance in the show. I remember when the price of 70-75 thousand was announced for my athletes, we answered: “What are you? Are you crazy? In no case”. 90-100 – then we worked on such numbers. Now, if a dozen somewhere is highlighted, this is already very cool.
Collaboration with Ovechkin
There was only a period when I worked with Sasha Ovechkin in 2008-2009. Thanks to Kostya Selinevich. This is the husband of the ballerina Diana Vishneva. It was a great time for me in the world of hockey. I realized that everyone should be a professional in their field. I’m not like that for hockey. Though I put near Gretzky and all the stars. I would try, but not become a professional. I would not want to do what I am poorly versed in. I think in figure skating I understand perfectly.
Sasha is a good guy. I respect him very much. And his family. Now he, like many athletes, is waiting to finally understand what will happen to the NHL. We often communicate, recently visited him, saw each other. I am an amateur in hockey, but, of course, I am a fan of the Washington Capitals.
In connection with the virus, I have such a pessimistic mood inside … Six months ago, I would have reacted emotionally to Sasha’s transition. And now for me it sounded quietly and calmly. After my Ice Oscar crashed, the rest didn’t seem so important.
I am aware of what is happening. We will follow, we will watch. Eteri is a respected trainer who managed to achieve very cool results. Zhenya is a super sportsman, and now he is a coach. But in order for something to happen, everyone must first go out onto the ice. For the competition to take place. There is no point in discussing something.
Plushenko is very purposeful and ambitious. Работая с ним многие годы, я неоднократно видел моменты, где он рвется к результату, и результат получался мощным. Но для успеха нужны и другие факторы — терпимость, тренерская тактика, опыт. Здесь очень много компонентов. Основательно он тренирует только два сезона. Что дальше произойдет, зависит только от него. Женя одарен, и у него сумасшедшая работоспособность — в этом я точно уверен.
Прогноз на Олимпиаду
— Кто победит в командном турнире на Олимпиаде-2022?
— У женщин?
— Не хотел бы я сейчас говорить. Давай пропущу этот момент. Думаю, что кто-то из наших.
— Варианта два. Юдзуру Ханю или Нэтан Чен.
— Александра Бойкова и Дмитрий Козловский.
— Надеюсь, кто-то из наших двух пар.
— Трусова, Косторная и Щербакова будут на Олимпиаде? Или там выступят уже другие девчонки?
— В любом случае, они будут где-то рядом.
Загитова и Медведева
Они обе круты. Смотря кто в чем. Они обе достойны. Это как противостояние Плющенко и Ягудина конца 90-х годов. Примерно такого же плана. Сложно сказать, кто круче. Они две очень крутые девочки. У них чемпионский характер, чемпионский взгляд.
Они способны вернуться в состав сборной? После того, как отменился «Ледовый Оскар» и закрыли всю планету, я ничему не удивлюсь. Даже если киты начнут разговаривать. У меня будет такой ответ.
— Вопрос как к вице-президенту федерации Армении. У Медведевой армянские корни. Почему после Олимпиады-2018 она не сменила гражданство? За сборную Армении она могла бы выступать еще много-много лет.
— У меня очень уважаемые, хорошие и дружеские отношения с российской федерацией фигурного катания (ФФККР). И с Арменией, само собой. И я не хотел бы быть тем человеком, который бы это форсировал. Если бы это должно было случиться, это бы случилось. Я патриот своей нации и горжусь, что я армянин, но те вещи, которые должны состояться извне, должны состояться извне.
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