Zhu Yongtao works at the National Sliding Center in Yanqing on January 27, 2021 (XINHUA)
As the skeleton, bobsleigh and luge competitions at the National Sliding Center in Beijing’s Yanqing are underway, the ice production team remains on post to complete surface maintenance before every event--safety comes first.
To develop a team of ice producers for the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, Shanghai Baoye Group Co. Ltd., a Shanghai-based industrial engineering enterprise, has put in more than two years of work.
The company first selected several staff members and sent them to Pyeongchang, the Republic of Korea, for skill training in 2019. Zhu Yongtao, who used to be a realtor and had started working at Baoye Group that same year, was one of them. “After our stint in Pyeonchang, we came back to receive physical training. Several selection rounds later, the Chinese ice production team finally took shape,” Zhu told Beijing Review.
On-site track testing is of the utmost importance to skeleton, bobsleigh and luge competitions. Racers can hit speeds of up to 129 km/h, posing high requirements on the track’s smooth surface and ice thickness.
According to Zhu, they are supposed to continuously spray water onto the tracks by applying specially made water pipes and sprinklers to avoid the formation of bubbles. Ice thickness requirements may vary depending on the sport. For example, the ice for bobsleigh races should be around 2 cm thicker than that for the luge events.
“When making ice overnight, we need to keep spraying water non-stop and consider fluctuations in temperature, wind speed and direction. To clean the ice surface and ensure its evenness, we created sets of customized repair tools because everyone's height, arm span and strength differ; their angles have been adjusted accordingly,” he added.
As Zhu introduced, sustainability stands at the center of the venue’s engineering efforts. Although sitting on a north-faced slope, sun shades help reduce the impact of sunlight beaming directly onto the ice surface to save energy consumption. The water used for making ice is filtered for clearness and volume is strictly controlled.
Though skeleton and luge are relatively new to China, the country’s athletes have gone all out and broken several domestic records in their races at the National Sliding Center. Yan Wengang made history by claiming a bronze medal in the men’s skeleton on February 11, marking China’s first-ever medal in the Winter Olympics event.
Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon
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