NPR logo Olympic Ice Was 'Crawling,' With Puddles And Ridges. What Went Wrong?


Olympic Ice Was 'Crawling,' With Puddles And Ridges. What Went Wrong?

Last night, at the Richmond Olympic Oval, two ice resurfacing machines malfunctioned, causing a delay during the first round of the men's 500 meters, leaving spectators wondering what went wrong.

Karen Crouse, a reporter for The New York Times, said that the oval was "in worse shape than the potholed Daytona International Speedway track." It was marred with puddles and ridges.

Gold medalist Shani Davis, who entered the race to prepare for his specialty, the 1,000 meters, withdrew from the second round after the delay. The venue's manager, Magnus Enfeldt, apologized for the problems.

A few minutes ago, NPR's Melissa Block spoke with Jamie Gibson, assistant director of operations at the Verizon Center, the home venue for the Washington Capitals, our local NHL franchise. Gibson has been resurfacing ice for some 23 years, on Zamboni and Olympia machines.

He said that the ice was "crawling." In other words, the ice temperature probably ran too low, leaving ripples on the ice. The purity of the water can have a dramatic effect on surface tension.

Watching the race last night, Gibson said that he felt bad for the ice resurfacers, having been there himself. When there is a problem, there are a number of quick fixes, but according to Gibson, you don't have as much flexibility during the Olympics, because organizers, coaches and athletes want everybody to skate under the same conditions.

You can hear more from Gibson later today, on NPR's All Things Considered.