On March 2, Capital Centre ran a newspaper ad saying Winter Olympic figure skating stars were coming to Washington.
In bold, big print, the ad for the 1980 Olympic Figure Skating Tour listed the names of Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, the world pair champions; Linda Fratianne, the Olympic silver medalist and 1979 world champion; Robin Cousins, the Olympic gold medalist; Charles Tickner, the Olympic bronze medalist; Lisa-Marie Allen, the U.S. ladies silver medalist, and Scott Hamilton, an Olympic finalist.
In much smaller print, after the list of names, came the words "and many more are expected."
Those expectations began falling through, however, and by the time another ad ran the following week no names were mentioned.
Since then, Fratianne, Babalonia and Gardner have been scratched from the amateur exhibition tour because they have turned professional. As of yesterday, Cousins was listed unlikely to appear, begging off because of exhaustion from a European tour.
Capital Centre has sold all but "a couple hundred" of the 16,800 seats for the April 19 performance, the second on a 12-city tour, according to Centre spokesman Bob Zurfluh.
"We never advertised they were definitely going to attend," Zurfluh said of the top draws. "We were careful to say they were expected to attend and we feel we've still got a spectacular show even if they don't come."
Many of the 23 skaters who will participate were members of a critically acclaimed tour that won rousing standing ovations when it performed at Capital Centre two years ago.
Tom Collins, the promoter of the tour, which is sponsored in conjunction with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, said yesterday that the withdrawals came as a surprise to him.
Collins said the skaters had agreed at the nationals in Atlanta on Jan. 20 to perform on the tour, as they had done in past years.
"But it's amateur skating and you can't really sign them to a contract," Collins added. "We didn't expect Fratianne to turn pro so fast and she certainly didn't tell me she was going to. And it was the same way for Tai and Randy."
Cousins is expected to make a final decision early next week, but is known to be negotiating with Holiday on Ice in Europe, Collins said.
Collins said there have been no requests for refunds or cancellations by host arenas. "You could never see the skaters we have on the tour here all in one place except at the world championships," Collins said.