Countdown to Beijing 2022 | "Experience Beijing" tests competition organization in rehearsals

(Xinhua) 09:15, April 11, 2021

A skater competes during the speed skating test program at the National Speed Skating Oval in Beijing, capital of China, April 10, 2021. (Xinhua/Ju Huanzong)

Competition organization was put to test during the "Experience Beijing" ice sports testing program and the result was fruitful as the 10-day event concluded on Saturday.

By sportswriters Li Jia and Zhang Xiao

BEIJING, April 10 (Xinhua) -- Standing in the National Speed Skating Oval and watching young athletes skating on the shiny rink, China's former speed skating world champion Wang Beixing had mixed emotions.

She was partially jealous of those young athletes who had the chance to set their skate blades on the brand new rink. And meanwhile she felt very glad as the testing program in the venue, known as the "Ice Ribbon," was going as smoothly as the athletes skated on the gleaming ice.

Following the successful testing program on snow in February, the "Experience Beijing" ice sports testing series for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, consisting of five Olympic events and two para events, got underway between April 1 and 10 in five different competition venues, including the National Speed Skating Oval where the 36-year-old Wang works as the stadium's sports director.

"The testing program in the 'Ice Ribbon' had three priorities. First is the ice, we need to make sure the ice will be of perfect quality during the Winter Olympics next year," Wang said. "The second would be the competition facilities including the safety cushions, training equipment and so on, which are most relevant to the athletes, and we want feedback from them."

"Thirdly, we also need to drill on the operation teams," she said. "I feel very glad because the mock competition went well and as for the three priorities, I am satisfied for the result of the rehearsals."

Skaters compete during the speed skating test program at the National Speed Skating Oval in Beijing, capital of China, April 10, 2021. (Xinhua/Ju Huanzong)

Boasting an ice surface of around 12,000 square meters with a total of some 12,000 seats, the National Speed Skating Oval is the only newly built ice sports venue in the Beijing competition zone.

Around 20 kilometers to the southwest of the "Ice Ribbon," lies the Capital Gymnasium, a 53-year-old indoor stadium, which was the first artificial ice rink of new China.

As the "oldest" competition venue for Beijing 2022, the Capital Gymnasium will host short track speed skating and figure skating competitions. The "Experience Beijing" ice sports testing program marked the debut of the venue following a two-year reconstruction.

The exterior was "repaired as the old" with still the beige walls, dark glass windows and facades decorated with vertical lines. But the interior has been renewed to meet the needs of the Winter Olympics and the rink and facilities are also ready to face new challenges.

The Beijing 2022 figure skating and short track speed skating competitions will be staged on the same rink in the Capital Gymnasium. According the most recently updated competition schedule for Beijing 2022, both of the figure skating and short track speed skating competitions will be staged on the same day in one of the competition days here. To be more exact, the two competing sessions will be set apart by merely five and a half hours on Day 3 of the Winter Olympics.

The picture taken on April 3, 2021 shows the exterior view of Capital Gymnasium in Beijing during a figure skating test program. (Xinhua/Li Ming)

Since the two sports requires different ice surface conditions - "softer" ice for figure skaters to better support jumps and harder ice for short track skaters for faster speed - the field of play transitions turned out to be the key point during the testing program.

"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.

During the six testing days, Ding and his colleagues arranged seven fields of play transition, which involves many aspects around the rink, including safety cushions, starting station, photo positions and other temporary facilities.

"But, the ice is above every other thing. It's also the most difficult part," said Shen Ling, transition manager of the venue's operation team, adding that the switch of the ice surface could be complete within two hours during the rehearsals.

In the past 10 days, transition and transformation work has been also tested in the Wukesong Sports Center, where a basketball court can be converted into an ice hockey rink within six hours, the National Aquatic Center, which was dubbed as the "Water Cube" during the 2008 Beijing Olympics and will be "frozen" into an "Ice Cube" during Beijing 2022 to host curing events, as well as the the National Indoor Stadium, which will host ice hockey and para ice hockey events in 2022.

Referring to the Winter Olympics and Paralympics standards and testing as thoroughly as possible are among the main principles of the ice sports testing program.

Daily competition schedules were arranged according to the Olympic schedule, operational plans were also worked out on the basis of the competition schedules to ensure smooth coordination while preparing for emergencies. In order to meet the epidemic prevention and control requirements, a series of new measures also debuted during the test program including a non-contact award ceremony, remote mixed zone and on-line press conferences.

"Through this test program we are more confident and determined to host the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics on time and successfully," said Yan Cheng, director of the human resource department of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (BOCOG).

"We tested the venues, equipment and infrastructure as well as the cooperation and coordination of the staff. I think it was a good rehearsal for Beijing 2022 in all aspects."

"The key purpose of the testing program is to find problems and solve the problems. Later we will analyse and sum up the experience from this test program and further enhance our venue operation work during the winter Olympics and Paralympics in 2022," Yan added.

(Web editor: Sheng Chuyi, Bianji)


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