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“Kiss and Cry”: It’s the place where Olympic dreams are made or die. 

It’s the designated area where figure skaters go after their performances to anxiously await their scores, for better or for worse. It’s where viewers get an up-close and personal look at athletes as they experience a wide array of emotions, from celebratory kisses with coaches to tears of joy or disappointing pain. 

Hence the name.

“For the skaters, it could be a few minutes of torture,” David Michaels, NBC’s director for Olympic figure skating, told the New York Times. “It’s good for us.”

We got a front row seat as Nathan Chen embraced his coach in the “Kiss and Cry” Thursday in celebration of his gold medal in the men’s individual competition at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, becoming the seventh American man to achieve such a feat. We also saw the other side of the spectrum as Canada’s Roman Sadovsky shrugged his shoulders in disappointment after receiving low marks on his short program.

Although “Kiss and Cry” may seem like a silly nickname, it’s an official figure skating term that has contributed to the popularity of the sport. 

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Here’s everything you need to know:

What is the ‘Kiss and Cry’?

It is an area off the skating rink where figure skaters wait for their marks immediately after a performance with their coaches. We see skaters react to their scores in real-time. 

Where did ‘Kiss and Cry’ originate?

“Kiss and Cry” was coined by Finnish figure skating official Jane Erkko, who was on the organizing committee for the 1983 World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki, Finland. According to a 2004 book by former Italian skating judge Sonia Bianchetti Garbato called “Cracked Ice: Figure Skating’s Inner World,” Erkko referred to the scoring area as “the kiss and cry corner” to a television producer mapping out camera placements.

The technician wrote KISS AND CRY on the map, according to Garbato. The term stuck and is now an official figure-skating term, mentioned twice in the International Skating Union’s Constitution and General Regulations.

How has the ‘Kiss and Cry’ evolved? 

The area has evolved into a spectacle itself over time.

According to the New York Times, the “Kiss and Cry” was “spruced up with foliage” for the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York. A bench was added for the 1984 Games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia and a “major set” with backdrops and lights emerged at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

“It’s such a big part of our coverage now,” Michaels told the Times. “It’s gone from a blue curtain and a bucket of flowers on the side to plastic ice sculptures and crazy sets. It’s become a big design element that everyone works hard to figure out.”

Why is the ‘Kiss and Cry’ popular?

Figure skaters may look like machines on the ice, but the “Kiss and Cry” area shows these athletes are indeed human despite their superhuman accomplishments. 

“The value of the kiss-and-cry is basic: find out what the marks are,” Doug Wilson, longtime ABC producer, told the Times. “But the real value is that you see these people with their guards down. It’s a very special time. Most people don’t think about it, but if you add up the total amount of airtime that the kiss-and-cry gets relative to the skating, it’s a large percentage.”

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