Ice technicians are the secret stars of the Winter Olympics

Popular Science | 2/11/2018 | Staff
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“At the [beginning], we have effectively a concrete floor,” he says. “We start by cooling the concrete until we get it… around 23 degrees Fahrenheit and then we start to spray water on it to build ice up.”

But it’s not just any water—after all, this is the Olympics. Callan says the surface of the curling ice has to be totally even, or else the stones don’t slide correctly. “In a normal tap or city water, you’ll have fluoride or cooline and other such chemicals,” he says. “During the freezing process… these chemicals pool so you get a little dent in the water, a little ripple. So to try and counteract that, we use treated water.” Callan’s team runs the tap through a reverse osmosis and a deionization system. Both processes remove ions and molecules suspended in the water. This ensures only the purest H2O pours out onto the concrete court.

Ice - Technicians - Alice - Wonderland - Fashion

After the ice is layered on, the technicians, in true Alice and Wonderland fashion, literally paint the ice to give it that shine you see on TV. Then, they layer on the game-specific markings, like those big bullseyes. When everything else is finished, Callan’s team sprays small droplets of water across the hardened surface; that way, there’s something lubricating the granite stones as they shuffle across.

But this prep work is the easiest part. Maintaining a consistent chill is where the real challenge lies. “There’s lots of different issues that can arise,” Callan says. Number one? Body heat. “We have up to 3,200 people appearing in the building for every game and then at the end of it, they all clear out, and a couple hours later we have to start...
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