Olympic Green Arena Lives Up To Gold Standard
Author: Larry Fine
VANCOUVER - Gold medals are not handed out for architectural design, but the environmentally friendly speed skating arena built for the Vancouver Olympics is being called a winner by the bladed athletes who will compete there this month.
The Richmond Olympic Oval, considered the signature building of the Games, contains salvaged wood damaged by a pine-beetle infestation and has a massive roof shaped like a wave.
"We compete in some nice ovals that have been built as Olympic facilities in the past," defending 5,000 meters champion Chad Hedrick of the United States told Reuters. "This one here obviously outdoes all of them. They went big on this.
"Being an Olympian, the best part is walking in and feeling like you're being treated special, feeling like you've really made it to the big time. When you walk in here you definitely feel that way."
Completed just over a year ago, the $178 million building that sits along the Fraser River in Richmond, just outside downtown Vancouver, is striking on the outside, spectacular inside and a model environmental sustainability.
The most distinctive external element is the roof, designed in a wave formation that is one of the world's largest clearspan wooden structures.
Inside, 15 soaring wooden arches span a wooden ceiling joined in a way that creates a ripple effect and gives the feel of being sheltered by a massive heron's wing, the city's official symbol.
"Walking into the oval at Richmond is amazing. You just get really inspired. It's beautiful looking. It's very motivating to be there. It's just a great place," 1994 triple gold medal winner Johann Olav Koss of Norway told Reuters on Thursday.
"It doesn't feel like an ice rink because it has a wooden ceiling, so that is beautiful," Danish speed skater Cathrine Grage said.
Blue spectator seats ring the 400-meter track to accommodate a crowd of 7,600 for the Games competitions. The design was executed with close attention to the environment.
The ceiling was made with a million board feet of pine beetle-infested wood that otherwise would have gone to waste, and wood cleared from the six-acre site before construction began was used to make benches in the team dressing rooms.
Rainwater running off the distinctive roof is collected in a pond for irrigation and flushing the facility's toilets, and the oval's refrigeration plant uses a waste heat recovery system to heat areas of the building that will be turned into a multi-sport facility and exercise center after the Games.
"It's just absolutely amazing, like nothing I've ever seen," said Australian skater Sophie Muir.
"The place is just beautiful in the way they've set it up to be quite environmentally friendly, which scores brownie points in my books."
Editing by Frank Pingue