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Sustainable Games commitment crystallizes with ice installation

By SUN XIAOCHEN | China Daily | Updated: 2021-05-14 07:19
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The National Speed Skating Oval in downtown Beijing will operate as a multifunctional venue after the 2022 Winter Olympics. [Photo/Xinhua]

Beijing's vision of hosting sustainable Winter Olympics is materializing in a big way with the completion of Asia's largest ice surface.

As the only purpose-built venue for Beijing 2022 in the capital's downtown area, the National Speed Skating Oval is already gearing up for post-Games operations after the success of a test to make a full-scale ice surface that covers its entire ground area, including the 400-meter track and the inner space reserved for registration and warm-up activities during competitions.

The 12,000-square-meter ice sheet, the largest single-piece formation of its kind in Asia, will help diversify the venue's functionality beyond 2022 thanks to in-built control units capable of maintaining different ice temperatures in different parts of the layer. This flexibility will, therefore, make the oval compatible with all ice-sports disciplines.

The ice coverage extending to the inner ground, a design rarely seen at similar venues elsewhere, is considered a game-changer.

"The full ice design will help facilitate our operation after the Olympics by making it possible for the venue to stage more kinds of ice-sports competitions and recreational activities," said Feng Gang, a deputy director of planning and development at the venue.

The venue operations team has also devised plans to host future programs of ice hockey, short-track speed skating and figure skating on the 6,000-sqm central area.

The full-cover ice sheet was produced by an all-Chinese team over seven days with guidance from Canadian ice technician Mark Messer, who visited Beijing earlier this year to oversee the ice-making process for an April test event.

"By making a larger area of ice all by themselves, our local ice makers have gained huge experience and tested their craft to near the Olympic standard," said Geng Baonan, a manager of the venue's ice-making project.

Built on the former site of the 2008 Summer Olympics' archery range, the National Speed Skating Oval will stage 14 long-track speed skating medal events at next year's Games, which will run from Feb 4-20 in downtown Beijing, its northwest Yanqing district and co-host Zhangjiakou, Hebei province.

The venue, also known as the "Ice Ribbon" due to its slick exterior lighting beams, is expected to play host to mass sports promotional activities and commercial ice-sports shows in the future.

Another technical highlight of the oval is the use of an eco-friendly cooling system that adopts carbon dioxide as a refrigerant, instead of the harmful substance Freon, for the first time in Olympic history.

The new system, which freezes quicker and is more stable than the old technique, helps maintain consistent temperature, density and firmness of ice across the track, allowing skaters to push to their limits.

Its low-energy operation is estimated to save 2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually compared to the old system.

Chinese snow-how

Meanwhile, Chinese researchers have developed two new instruments to evaluate conditions for alpine skiing.

The instruments, which evaluate the hardness of snow by measuring the size of particles, will be used at Beijing 2022 as well as polar expeditions. Skiers currently mostly rely on personal experience to evaluate slope conditions.

The new instruments provide more accurate and clear indexes to gather data on the quality of ice and snow, according to researchers from the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences (CAMS) and the Nanjing Institute of Astronomical Optics and Technology of the National Astronomical Observatories under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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