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Skating Rink Puts Mexico City On Ice

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Skating Rink Puts Mexico City On Ice

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Skating Rink Puts Mexico City On Ice

Skating Rink Puts Mexico City On Ice

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Mexico City has given its people a very large, very cold holiday gift. A massive ice-skating rink sprawls across the city's main square. It's billed as the world's largest skating rink.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I am Robert Siegel. This is the season for giving, and Mexico City's mayor has given his citizens a Nordic playground well below the Tropic of Cancer. What's being billed as the world's largest ice skating rink has been unveiled in the main square of the Mexican capital. If skating is not your event, don't worry. There is also a sledding hill and a place for making snowmen. NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from Mexico City.

JASON BEAUBIEN: The Zocalo is the heart of Mexico City. This massive main square is one of the largest in the world. Only Tiananmen Square in Beijing and Red Square in Moscow are larger. At different times of the year, the Zocalo is the scene of political demonstrations, concerts, and art exhibits. Right now, it's a sprawling winter wonderland, except it's so hot out that vendors are selling ice cream.

The city has erected a giant Christmas tree that is almost as tall as the bell towers on the adjacent 16th century cathedral. There is a pair of fake igloos with inflatable Santa's and stuffed reindeer. Miles of Christmas lights and garlands have been strung on buildings surrounding the square. But the centerpiece of Christmas on the Zocalo is the massive ice skating rink.

Ms. VALERIA GONZALES AMORA(ph): (Spanish spoken)

BEAUBIEN: Valeria Gonzales Amora and five of her cousins have just come off the ice. It's her first time ice skating, but she says it isn't difficult. Everything here is free including the use of the ice skates. Mexico City is spending $1.5 million to put on this event. Critics say it's extravagant in a place that doesn't even have a reliable municipal water supply and so many of its citizens live in poverty. But Gonzales says she appreciates that the city is offering it.

Ms. GONZALES AMORA: (Spanish spoken)

BEAUBIEN: It entertains us, she says, and it gives us something to do. This is the second year that the city has hosted what it bills as the largest ice skating rink in the world. The rink covers more than 33,000 square feet and it uses 10 truck-sized cooling machines to keep the surface frozen. Few of Mexico City's 20 million residence get much practice skating. And out on the ice, many of the people are clinging tightly to the outside walls. I've run into Antonio Gonzales, a fruit vendor from the city. He has brought a seven-year-old son to sled on the toboggan hill.

Mr. ANTONIO GONZALES (Fruit Vendor, Mexico City): (Spanish spoken)

BEAUBIEN: Antonio says he has only seen snow once before, out near Hidalgo, and his son never has. The sledding hill is actually scaffolding covered in plywood and chipped ice from a snow machine. Antonio says this doesn't matter to a child. He says, for his son, it's as is if they've gotten escape from the city, for at least part of the afternoon. Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Mexico City.

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