Are we ready to take an Olympic-size stage?

With the Beijing Games still a fresh memory, Everett and Snohomish County get their first taste of Olympic-style attention less than two months from now.

About 60 of the world’s top figure skaters from 15 countries will compete for gold at the 2008 Skate America competition Oct. 24-26 at Everett’s Comcast Arena. No matter who wins in ladies’ singles, men’s singles, pairs or ice dancing, the big winner should be the local economy, now and into the future — if local businesses are ready to show they’re up to world-class standards.

As the opening host of the International Skating Union’s six-event Grand Prix series, Everett is rubbing elbows with Ottawa, Beijing, Paris, Moscow and Tokyo. Yep, the pressure to perform is on.

From the fabulous new Tulalip hotel that will host the skaters and event officials to the downtown eateries that will cater to thousands of visitors, Everett and Snohomish County are being presented a one-time opportunity to make a winning first impression on the international sporting community. If we do, it will put the region on the map of the international federations that oversee Olympic-level sports, and more such events could follow.

Spokane stands as a model for how to do it right. It hosted its first Skate America in 2002, and built on its success by landing the 2007 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. It will host them again in January 2010, when they’ll be used to select the American team for the following month’s Olympics in Vancouver, B.C.

The exposure Skate America will bring Snohomish County is a tourism promoter’s dream. NBC and TV Asahi of Japan will televise the event, bringing shots of downtown Everett and other jewels of Snohomish County into living rooms around the world. Skating officials, foreign dignitaries and international journalists will spread the word about their experience here.

Snohomish County wisely invested $100,000 in local hotel/motel taxes into promoting the event. Twenty-three local hotels — from Arlington south to Lynnwood and Edmonds, from Marysville and Mukilteo east to Monroe — are part of a reservation system that is booking rooms for Skate America fans. Ticket sales have been brisk, said event organizer Steve Baker of Production Sports in Mountlake Terrace, but good seats remain.

Skate America will pump an estimated $2.5 million directly into the local economy, but the impact of national and international media coverage could be many times that.

If we prove ourselves as a world-class host, that is.

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