The Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games that will take place in China in February, 2022 promise to be like no Olympics that have come before. President Xi Jinping has announced his country’s intention to make the event as environmentally sustainable as possible, declaring that the Games will be “green, inclusive, open and clean”, in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. For the first time in the history of the Olympics, all the venues – located in the Chinese capital, Beijing, and the neighbouring province of Hebei – will be wholly powered by green energy, utilising the rich wind and solar resources of co-host city Zhangjakou. And rather than build new venues in Beijing, the organisers are adapting existing buildings, such as the National Aquatics Centre, where the swimming pool will be transformed into a curling arena.
The one exception is the capital’s new National Speed Skating Oval. Known as ‘The Ice Ribbon’, this imposing construction will host 12,000 spectators during the Games, when 14 gold medals will be awarded. The exterior façade of the building, which has been designed by architecture firm Populous, is a striking oval cocoon of 22 glass ribbons, which symbolise the traces that the skaters leave on the ice. At night, the ribbons light up in changing colours, and during the day, in keeping with the Games’ green credentials, they generate electricity, thanks to the photovoltaic qualities of the glass.
Inside, the ice covers 12,000 square metres, making this the largest indoor ice surface in all of Asia. And the technological innovation continues: in another green first for the Olympics, Beijing has introduced carbon dioxide transcritical direct cooling for the ice-making process. Juan Antonio Samaranch, Chair of the International Olympic Committee Coordination Commission for the Games, has described this as “a landmark decision”.
“The speed skating venues during the past Winter Olympics all used Freon refrigerants, but the new natural refrigerants, made of carbon dioxide, have no impact on the environment,” says Gui Lin, an official with the Planning and Construction Department of the Games organising committee.
The stadium’s modular refrigeration system can maintain a uniform temperature across the entire ice surface to within 0.5°C and was constructed by Pan-China Sports. The cooling system was designed by Hua Shang International Engineering, utilising the expertise of Swedish ice rink specialists EKA and the cutting-edge cooling technology of Haier Carrier and Güntner, who provided six large V-shape VARIO Gas Cooler with hydroBLU™.
“THIS WAS THE BIGGEST CO2 PROJECT EVER IN CHINA, SO IT WAS A REAL LANDMARK.”
Sales manager, güntner
“This was the biggest CO2 project ever in China, so it was a real landmark,” says Güntner Sales Manager Jason Dai. “It was very complex, and we had to make sure the gas coolers worked perfectly for the whole refrigeration system.”
The technology is also extremely energy-efficient compared to what has come before. “The energy consumption of this ice-making system is twenty percent less compared to one based on Freon,” says Song Jiafeng, the Ice Ribbon’s Executive Deputy General Manager. In addition, the waste heat generated by refrigeration will be used for athletes’ domestic hot water and ice surface maintenance.