The Winter Olympics are a World Games for athletes, but that also goes for the people working behind the scenes at Beijing 2022.
Canadians Mark Peter Messer and Matthew James Messer are the men responsible for making the ice at the National Speed Skating Oval.
Both worked on the ice in PyeongChang in 2018, and four years later set their sights on delivering record surfaces.
But Mark, widely regarded as the best ice maker on the planet, believes the National Speed Skating Oval ice is even faster than the one they made in South Korea, as evidenced by the fact that a number of Olympic speed skating records have already been broken in Beijing.
“We’ve had a lot of success with our records,” he told a news conference. “We have records at almost every distance. We get great feedback from athletes and coaches that we have created a good surface for them to perform on.”
A process that began almost immediately after the last Winter Olympics, they worked with a small team from Canada alongside local ice makers in China to ensure the ice was maintained after the games.
Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
“As the pandemic started to hit, we started doing longer trips but less work, because we would be doing a quarantine before and a quarantine when we got back to Canada, so that created some challenges there. -down, that’s for sure,” Mark said.
“Some of the trips that we would have done, we didn’t do because of the restrictions, so we worked more on Zoom calls and tech calls.
“We had challenges, that’s for sure. We didn’t have a lot of experience before the Games where we could learn. Usually, if you open a building, it takes you three, four or five years to really understand how it all works together.
“There are the effects of the air, the effects of the humidity, the lights, the people coming in. There are a lot of factors that affect the quality of the ice and we didn’t have a great opportunity to learn about it because with the pandemic going on, we didn’t have the opportunity to have the test events .
“We had a few small test events and we appreciated the people who came out for those. We learned a few things, but most of the learning we did we had to do as soon as the Olympic athletes arrived.”
In addition to creating the fastest circuit possible, the two men were tasked with making the National Speed Skating Oval as environmentally friendly as possible.
“The CO2 refrigeration we use here is very efficient, much more environmentally friendly, and that’s definitely how things should be in the future,” Mark said.
“HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) refrigerants that are used in many older buildings will be phased out and that will be the way it will be for the next few years.
“We had to redesign a lot of the refrigeration to be able to integrate the CO2 system into the building, which as I said before was a brilliant decision. It’s so successful to have this system.
“It was something that took a little longer to design, but was well worth it.
“This technology is going to be widely used in the future. There is a push to move to natural refrigeration, so C02, ammonia, are two of the main ones that we will of course come back to.