Countdown to Beijing 2022 | Speed and grace: An Olympic ice rink transition in under two hours

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, April 5, 2021
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by Sportswriters Zhang Han, Ding Wenxian, and Wang Chujie

BEIJING, April 5 (Xinhua) -- Remy Boehler is just one step away from realizing his Olympic dream in China, as the French ice master has been invited to lead the Capital Gymnasium's ice-making team in preparations for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games.

"Everything is good," Boehler said before his team set the first ice surface transition underway during the "Experience Beijing" Ice Sports Testing Program slated here for April 1 to 10.

"Everybody has a lot of jobs for making good ice, and I think it's a good point for preparing the Games," added the 44-year-old, who told Xinhua three years ago in PyeongChang 2018, his third Winter Games, that he's quite willing to serve the next Olympics.

Like every previous Olympic Winter Games, the Beijing 2022 figure skating and short track speed skating competitions will be staged on the same rink in the 53-year-old Capital Gymnasium, which is newly renovated for the spectacle.

From Boehler's point of view, however, it's not the same at all, since figure skaters need "softer" ice to better support jumps while short track speed skaters favor harder ice for increased speed.

To meet the requirement of both sports, Boehler and his team have to adjust the ice temperature from minus three to four degrees Celsius for figure skating to minus six to seven degrees for short track.

"This is the only venue that has to switch between two sports in the middle of a day, which gives us huge stress during these testing events," said Ding Dong, head of the Capital Gymnasium venue operation team, explaining why they arranged seven transitions in six testing days.

With the most recently updated Beijing 2022 schedule seeing both figure skating and short track events on one competition day, while the rest of the days have the two sports every other day, the challenges to the field of play (FOP) transition are mounting.

"FOP Transition involves many aspects around the rink, including the conversions of some temporary facilities, like the starting station and the protective pads. The photo positions will differ as well.

"But, ice is above every other thing. It's also the most difficult part," echoed Shen Ling, transition manager of the CG venue operation team.

As short track and figure skating won China the most gold medals at the Winter Games, the two sports have a solid fan base in the host country, possibly leading to a more complicated situation for Boehler's team, seeing that the Capital Gymnasium will be often fully packed at Olympic time.

With more people gathered, the temperature inside the venue will rise, which could be a disaster for the rink.

Also, the Capital Gymnasium has a capacity of 15,000, though having cut from the total seats of 18,000 via renovation, is still double the capacity of the 6,000 for PyeongChang's Gangneung arena.

That's why Shen and her team require all the additional jobs - replacing the pads, shifting the landscape, and switching the technical equipment lines - to be done within half an hour, to reserve more time for the transition of ice.

"We allocate a considerable amount of time to the ice-making team, giving them two hours to complete the switch of the ice surface," Shen said.

With all these high hopes, Boehler, who was once given four hours to complete the ice transition in PyeongChang, sounded full of confidence after a few rehearsals with his team.

"It's really good preparation," he said. "Everybody can now test the ice, with the same conditions as the Olympic Winter Games."

The ongoing pandemic of COVID-19 around the world does not bother him either.

"The quarantine is not easy," said Boehler, who came to China a month ago for the testing events. "But all the guys around me make me feel really welcome, and they all do a good job and help me every time." Enditem

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