By Alina Adams – Originally published on Soap Opera 451.
Director Doug Wilson’s book, The World Was Our Stage, Spanning the Globe With ABC Sports, is out now, and covers a great deal of Doug’s career filming every conceivable kind of figure skating event.
Earlier, I’d interviewed Doug for my own book, Inside Figure Skating, about television’s influence on the sport.
Skating and television broke another precedent, when, in 1980, a group of amatuer and pro skaters, including Peggy Fleming, Lisa-Marie Allen, Linda Fratiane, Jo Jo Starbuck & Kenneth Shelley, Tai Babilonia & Randy Gardner, Judy Blumberg & Michael Seibert, David Santee, and Elaine Zayak, together became the first U.S. skaters to perform an exhibition in China. Apparantly, one of Peggy Fleming’s early television specials had aired there, raising interest in her performing, and opening the door to the historic trip. The United States Ambassador later told the athletes, what they did was worth a thousand political speeches.
The 1980 show aired live in China, and was seen by two hundred million people. Among them may have been a three year old Chen Lu, who, after winning the 1995 World Championship, admitted her childhood idol was Peggy Fleming.
As skaters grew more accustomed to having television cameras recording their every step, they also grew accustomed to making the concessions necessary to insure television getting everything they needed to, in turn, make the skater look good. At the 1980 Olympic Games, when a production assistant overslept and missed a mandatory shot of Linda Fratianne arriving for practice, the four-time U.S. Champion graciously agreed to reenact the moment for the cameras.
By 1984, Scott Hamilton was so television-savvy, he called up ABC and said, ‘I don’t know if you’re going to do an Up-Close-and-Personal profile on me, but, I suspect it’s possible. I thought of this piece of music sung by Gary Morris, “Wind Beneath My Wings,” and it’s everything I believe about my relationship with my coach, Don Laws. So, if you were going to do a piece on me, I just want to throw that in.” Laughs Doug Wilson, “He was already producing!”