With nearly two years to go until the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, the curling venue, now renamed as the Ice Cube, has made great strides in its transformation.
Maintaining the legacy of Beijing’s 2008 Olympic Summer Games, the swimming, diving and water polo venue, also known as the Water Cube, or Beijing National Aquatics Centre, has been repurposed for the next Winter Games – 4 to 20 February 2022.
Construction in Beijing sees a ten-lane pool transformed into a four-sheet curling rink.
Scotland’s Mark Callan, will be the Deputy Chief Ice Technician alongside the Chief Ice Technician, Canada’s, Hans Wuthrich, for the Olympic Winter Games. Callan will then be Chief for the Paralympic Winter Games.
In December 2019, Callan got his first look at the Ice Cube. The inaugural event in the new ice rink – the junior China Open– took place from 2 to 8 December and had teams from China and Japan competing.
“My initial thoughts were that it looked amazing. There had been quite a few changes since I had been there a year or so before and the layout looked spectacular,” said Callan.
After the event, the ice stayed in for one month to allow 3,000 school children and disabled athletes to try curling. This supports the Chinese government’s goal to have 300 million people try winter sports by 2022. Currently, there are a handful of dedicated curling facilities across China, in Harbin and in Beijing, with prospects of Shanghai and Chengdu in the future.
Further Olympic and Paralympic test events will be held in 2020, along with the final test events in 2021 – the World Junior Curling Championships and the World Wheelchair Curling Championship.
Extensive infrastructure changes will bring the venue’s capacity up to 4,500.
“The 50-metre pool had been completely drained and filled in with a very complex floor structure built on scaffolding with concrete blocks to ensure the folly would not move when the weight of the ice and players were added,” Callan continued.
“It is envisaged that over the next two years the ice will be installed and removed a couple of times to ensure that the structures can take the load and the pool can still be used for swimming when there is no ice present.”
Looking to 2022
Although the legacy still holds strong from 2008, Beijing has completely switched gears to focus on 2022. Around Beijing, adverts of the Olympic rings and the Beijing 2022 logo cover the city. During the Games, the Ice Cube will be at the heart of the Olympic action. It’s a five-minute walk from the Birds Nest Stadium, which will host both the opening and closing ceremonies.
With a surge of Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games being held in Asia recently, including the last Games in PyeongChang, South Korea and the upcoming Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan, many believe curling will see an increase of popularity.
“I think these Games will mean a big participation explosion in Asia,” Callan concluded.