Marriage on ice

Popular ice skating duo sell tickets to wedding

Marriage on ice

To this woman, I thee wed

Before Chelsea Clinton finally married Marc Mezvinsky in July, the only thing that was known about the event was the date. In keeping with Chelsea’s desire for privacy, the Clintons’ 400 guests were ordered not to divulge the location.

In an era defined by rolling coverage of what the rich, famous and privileged are up to, this was unusual. Other high profile figures try to cash in by selling the exclusive rights to their wedding photos to the likes of Hello Magazine.

The Clintons released only a brief statement and a couple of photos of the newlyweds. And even when editors eventually discovered the ceremony would be held at the Astor mansion in Rhinebeck, New York, the airspace was declared off-limits by federal aviation officials – a move designed to curb paparazzi activity.

At the other end of the wedding privacy scale is China’s Zhao Hongbo. The ice-skater (and Olympic gold medallist) doesn’t do low key and is taking an altogether different approach to his nuptials. He is selling tickets to his wedding, as well as live broadcasting rights for TV.

The wedding ceremony takes place tomorrow at the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing. Those keenest to watch Zhao say ‘I do’ to his figure skating partner Shen Xue, can get seats right up close to the altar for Rmb1,080. The cheap seats at the back are priced more competitively at Rmb100 a head.

Ah, the romance. Ice skating is a ‘sport’ that tries to invoke a reputation for moments of passion. British readers of a certain age will remember the speculation on the relationship of Olympic champions Torvill and Dean. Americans may recall passion of a different kind in the case of skater Tonya Harding – whose exhusband tried to get a rival skater’s leg broken in an infamous 1994 incident.

Zhao seems more commercially minded, and he knows he has to put on a decent show. Apart from the ceremony itself, the couple will be performing out on the ice, and be joined by Russian figure skating gold medallist Evgeny Plushenko and Mao Asada, a Japanese world champion. Singer Jane Zhang and violinist Lu Siqing will also be on hand to lend a musical flavour. Presumably, a few drunk uncles will then head out onto the ice to dance inappropriately, before falling flat on their faces.

As it turns out, Zhao and Shen have been ‘legally’ married since 2007. But the couple never had an actual ceremony, Zhao explains, so he thought it would be a good idea to organise an unforgettable day.

Naturally, he says he isn’t looking to make money from his wedding extravaganza but merely to break-even. Plus he will donate 10% of the box office to a development fund to promote figure skating among young Chinese.

Indeed, the promotion of the sport at grassroots level does appear to be a motive (hence the need for the event to be televised). Zhao hopes that the viewing public “fall in love with figure skating” and even take it up.

If the day does go well and prove popular, Zhao doesn’t rule out the idea of a tour (that would require divorce and re-marriage?).

But the skater isn’t taking success for granted. While every bride and groom worries about their ‘big day’, Zhao is particularly alive to the additional stress ahead. “A wedding plus a figure skating show can be said to be unprecedented,” he admitted to Sports Weekly.

© ChinTell Ltd. All rights reserved.

Sponsored by HSBC.

The Week in China website and the weekly magazine publications are owned and maintained by ChinTell Limited, Hong Kong. Neither HSBC nor any member of the HSBC group of companies ("HSBC") endorses the contents and/or is involved in selecting, creating or editing the contents of the Week in China website or the Week in China magazine. The views expressed in these publications are solely the views of ChinTell Limited and do not necessarily reflect the views or investment ideas of HSBC. No responsibility will therefore be assumed by HSBC for the contents of these publications or for the errors or omissions therein.