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Trusty Zamboni from Alberta rolls in to save the day

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RICHMOND, B.C. -- A new set of competitors are primed to take the ice together at the Richmond Olympic Oval today -- only this unlikely pairing will be working together rather than against one another.

The Zamboni that arrived at the Winter Games from Calgary after a 15-hour trek across the Rockies atop a flat-bed truck will be pressed into duty alongside a resurfacing machine made by rival company Olympia, whose units rallied with a flawless performance Tuesday after two days of struggles.

The decision comes in an effort to restore some stability to the long-track speedskating competition, which was marred by a 10-minute delay in the women's 3,000 metres on Sunday and a 70-minute delay Monday in the men's 500 that led the Dutch to suggest postponing the event.

On both occasions, Olympia machines dumped water and snow on the ice about 20 metres from the inside lane's finish line and on Monday the third-string machine also left grooves on the surface that eventually had to be cleared.

Although Tuesday's women's 500 went off without a hitch, organizers are turning to the reliable Zamboni that for years has groomed the well-regarded ice at the Calgary Olympic Oval.

"With what happened ... we've made the decision to move forward with the Zamboni to assure that we have the conditions that we want for the skaters to make it fair and equal and safe," Magnus Enfeldt, sport and venue planning manager for the VANOC organizers, told a brief news conference.

The decision was applauded earlier in the day by International Skating Union president Ottavio Cinquanta, who was happy officials decided to bring in the new unit and believes the competition will now proceed without further problems.

"This has been an accurate decision of the organizers," Cinquanta told The Canadian Press. "I think they have done almost the maximum they can do."

The Zamboni is built by the iconic Los Angeles company synonymous with ice-rink resurfacing. The unit from Calgary has been specially configured for the needs of speedskating, and includes a wider 96-inch base instead of the more typical 76-84 to fully cover the skating lane.

Its journey to the Olympics was put into motion around 8 p.m. CT Monday, when Tim Gayda, VANOC's vice-president of sport, called Kam Kiland, the Calgary oval's director, and asked to borrow the machine.

Kiland, the chief ice-maker for short-track speedskating and figure skating at the Olympics, called the operations manager and chief mechanic back in Calgary and asked them to get it ready. By 11 p.m. CT, the blade from it had been removed and packed, the logos on it stripped off, and the Zamboni loaded and uncovered for the long drive ahead. It arrived in Richmond at 5 p.m. CT.

Officials from the Olympia-machine maker Resurfice Corp. of Elmira, Ont., worked on the units ahead of Tuesday's racing and seemed to have straightened out the drive and conveyor-system problems which caused the blade that resurfaces the ice to not function properly.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 17, 2010 $sourceSection0

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