he event was like a windup toy, organizing committee chief Ted Clarke was saying. You cranked up the key and let it roll and hoped it didn't go haywire.
Boston hadn't hosted the US Figure Skating Championships since 1962, the year after the whole team was wiped out in a plane crash en route to the World Championships in Prague.
But when the weeklong event concluded yesterday with the medalists' exhibition at the FleetCenter, the host city had set standards for attendance (more than 125,000), organization, and enthusiasm.
''This nationals was a superb event, no question about it,'' said US Figure Skating Association president Phyllis Howard. ''The organization, the volunteers, the local skating community - we couldn't have asked for more.''
The event went so well, said Clarke, that the organizers are almost certain to bid for either the 2007 nationals (the next available date) or the 2008 worlds plus an international event - the Grand Prix final, the Four Continents Championships, or Skate America - before that.
What Boston proved again, as it has since it hosted baseball's All-Star Game, the Ryder Cup, women's World Cup soccer, and the Davis Cup quarterfinals in 1999, is that it has the infrastructure, the ability, and the desire to stage major sporting events that require years of preparation.
''The sporting community is very small, and word spreads,'' said Soosie Lazenby, president and CEO of the Mass. Sports Partnership, which has taken the lead in luring events to the state. ''We've built a resume for ourselves.''
Staging the skating nationals was a five-year process that required cooperation from the state, the city, Massport, the MDC, and the FleetCenter, plus the labor of more than 1,000 volunteers.
''The Sports Partnership connected us to the right people,'' said Clarke. ''The mayor came through beautifully and the people we hired did a great job.''
The biggest challenge - shuttling skaters, officials, and journalists around the Big Dig to three rinks in January - was solved in presidential fashion, with police escorts for the buses. ''Transportation was one of the watchwords for Boston,'' Howard said. ''To have it as one of the stunning achievements ... ''
Besides pumping an estimated $15 million into the city's economy (skating fans are confirmed shoppers) and creating a surplus that will benefit public rinks and developing skaters in the area, these nationals also were a renaissance for a sport that was born here but went dormant for years after the crash.
''Boston was at the top of skating when that happened,'' Clarke said. ''Now, we have a chance to turn it around.''