Ice quality now top priority, says VANOC

Tue Feb 16, 2010 4:06pm EST
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By Karolos Grohmann

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Maintaining the high standard of the speed skating track has become the Vancouver Games organizers' top priority after deciding to bring in a different brand of ice resurfacer, they said on Tuesday.

The existing Olympia Ice Resurfacers at the Richmond Oval have broken down in the past two days leading to long delays in the competitions and have embarrassed organizers.

"The most important thing right now is to put the best ice machine into the Oval," said Games spokeswoman Renee Smith-Valade.

Games officials decided late on Monday to bring in a propane-powered Zamboni from Calgary to replace the bulky battery-operated Olympia.

Earlier a mechanical problem with the Olympia delayed action for the second day in a row, causing an hour-long interruption in the men's 500 meters race.

One of the two machines originally used also broke down while preparing the ice midway through the women's 3,000 meters race at the oval two days ago, a striking new facility built on environmentally-friendly lines.

"The large ones have been causing problems," Smith-Valade said, adding that Mark Messer, the man in charge of ice quality, was more used to working with the Zamboni given that he was also responsible for the Calgary track. The Zamboni was due to arrive later on Tuesday.

Messer was also responsible for the track at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

(Editing by Miles Evans)

<p>A worker prepares the ice during a break in the men's 500 metres speed skating race at the Richmond Olympic Oval during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics February 15, 2010. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez</p>