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NICE, France, March 29 (Reuters) - The figure skating competition at the 2014 Sochi Olympics will begin on the eve of the opening ceremony to accommodate the team event that is being added to the schedule for the first time.
Ten nations, with each featuring a male and female single skater, a pairs team and an ice dance couple, will compete over three days to win the first gold medal of the figure skating event in the Russian Black Sea resort.
"We are excited about introducing a team event in Sochi, which we are able to do because we are saving one day after getting rid of one part of the ice dance competition," International Skating Union president Ottavio Cinquanta told a news conference on Thursday at the world championships.
"The first day will be on the day before the opening ceremony in Sochi and 10 teams will participate in the short programme. The five teams with the highest marks will then be permitted to skate in the free programme."
The ice dance competition had been made up of three segments, compulsories, original and free dance. Since last season, the compulsory and original dances were merged and now couples only have perform two dances.
This opened the way for the team event to be introduced in the Olympic programme. The nations able to compete in the team event will be decided at the end of the 2012-2013 cycle, with results from major competitions deciding the line-up.
Hosts Russia are the early favourites to win the new event as they are one of the few nations capable of fielding strong contenders in all four sections.
If the Sochi experiment is successful, Cinquanta said there was a "high probability" the format would be introduced to the world championships itinerary.
Traditionally competitions only begin after the Olympic opening ceremony but events such as soccer in the Summer Games have kicked off before the flame is lit in the main stadium. (Editing by Martyn Herman)