Duncan Mackay
Alan_Hubbard_Nov_11It has been a week for looking forward for all who savour the Summer Olympics, exactly a year to go with London well ahead of the Games. Ok, so the Trafalgar Square celebrations may have had faint echoes of the hilarious "mocumentary" TwentyTwelve now being repeated on BBC2, but the sight of Boris Johnson making that old sobersides Jacques Rogge's shoulders heave with laughter was a delight to behold.

Suggesting London is so ready it should call a snap Olympics was a gem. Just like Boris.

If perchance Bojo isn't re-elected next May I suggest they make him Honorary Mayor for the opening ceremony. He might make even Princess Anne crack a smile.

When she lifted the lid of the box containing the new Olympic medals you might have thought she was opening a tin of smelly dog food for the royal corgis.

More seriously, while we relish the events to come next July for the summer Olympians, we find ourselves looking back in anguish on what has happened following one iof Britain's greatest-ever Olympic triumphs over a quarter of a century ago in the Winter Games.

The perfection of T&D - Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean – may to some still seem a load of old Bolero but it engrossed the nation with one of the biggest-ever TV audiences for a sports event.

Previously the balletic brilliance of John Curry and the sequinned skills of Robin Cousins had seen Britain revel in a golden decade on ice.

Alas, subsequently the sport has been skating on precariously thin ice and now it seems it has finally fallen through it.

If confirmation of this was needed it came with the news that the elite skating academy at Nottingham's National Ice Centre, where T&D (whose coach and mentor Betty Callaway died recently) first began their quickstep to stardom, is to stop exclusive coaching of ice dancers from September due to cost and a lack of top class coaches.

Some of the ten young people aged eight to 15 in the ice dance section of the NIC Skating Academy have received specialist coaching for ten years. But according to director Geoff Huckstep: "We can no longer afford to keep ice dance in the academy."

He told the Nottingham Post: "The City Council has to fund any operating deficit the National Ice Centre has. Last year the deficit was £160,000. The Council says we have to get to an operating deficit of no more than £50,000 this year. They have massive financial pressures and we just have to take our share.

"Two years ago we had 25 ice dance skaters including three couples. We now have no couples and only ten solo ice dance skaters."

While specialist coaching of figure skaters will continue surely this signals the last waltz for ice dancing in Britain.

Especially as the couple who had been groomed as heirs top the T&D mantle - the Scottish brother and sister act John and Sinead Kerr, both now in their thirties, have decided to call it a day competitively after having to withdraw after this year's European championships because of Sinead's continuing shoulder problems.

The Kerrs did not compete in the last British Championships in November either due to her injury although they did earn a second bronze in this year's Euros.

At the World Championships in Moscow this April, in the absence of the Kerrs, the highest British place was the Olympic ice dancers, Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland.

They had had to pull out of the British Championship when Penny fell on her knee in the opening round. That left Louise Walden and Owen Edwards to take the vacant title. There were no other competitors in that British Ice Dance Championship - so much for the legacy of T&D.

In the World Championships in April Penny and Nick finished 16th and Louise and Owen 20th. It was their debut performance in worlds for both couples, although Penny and Nick did compete in the Olympics.

The other skating disciplines reveal a similar sorry tale, with no other Briton anywhere the top ten.

In the this year's ladies' World Championship, an injured Jenna McCorkell, seven-times British champion. finished 24th, which was last in the final round.

In the pairs event, British champions Stacey Kemp and David King, just failed to reach the top 16 and the new British men's champion, 23-year-old David Richardson, did not advance out of the preliminary rounds of either the world or European championships.

Now should you think I have suddenly become an expert on Britain's frozen assets I should explain that I am indebted for this chilling background information to one who is.

Sandra Stevenson is one of the world's premier skating authorities, who has covered the sport for the Guardian, Telegraph, Observer and Independent, also writing T&D's biography. Currenty she is skating correspondent for magazines iSkate (GB) and Blades on Ice (USA), having covered every Olympic Games and World Championships since 1968.

So she knows what she is talking about when she says that British skating has never been in a worse position, and  hopes for the immediate future at international level are non-existent.

"As in all sports, the technical accomplishments  of the top international contenders continually increase. In skating this has taken an enormous toll on the likelihood of injury," Stevenson told me.

"Unfortunately, to get to a higher and higher state, athletes must devote more time and energy to the sport. In skating, both on the international and national fronts, to cut down on expenses, the international and domestic controlling bodies of the sport have limited the number of entrants to championships by requiring high point totals to be set in lesser events. These totals are very high and competitors must spend a lot of money of their own to get to designated minor events abroad hoping to post the required points.

"The British Ice Dance Championship this season had only three couples entered with only one finishing. The women's Championship also had only three entrants, the smallest field ever.

"The situation is unlikely to change. Ambitious parents would be well advised to put their children into less costly sports."

It is surely also a factor that while T&D continue to popularise the entertainment aspect of skating with the highly successful TV show 'Dancing on Ice' the sport suffers because of a lack of modern-day role models.

What it needs is another inspirational figure..

Here's a thought. When Mayor Johnson hilariously waxed on about "whiff-whaff" in  Beijing he sparkled a whole new surge of interest in table tennis.

Apparently it has become a niche sport, now being played by thousands in clubs, pubs and sports centres throughout the land. Even the chavs love it. Ping pong is the new snooker.

So come on Boris. It's up to you. Off your bike and get your skates on.

Alan Hubbard is an award-winning sports columnist for The Independent on Sunday, and a former sports editor of The Observer. He has covered a total of 16 Summer and Winter Olympics, 10 Commonwealth Games, several football World Cups and world title fights from Atlanta to Zaire