RICHMOND, British Columbia - Problems with various ice-resurfacing machines at the speedskating venue caused a lengthy delay last night during the men's 500 meters.
Two machines are used to clean the ice, but the Richmond Olympic Oval was down to just one because of problems with the other. Then the second one acted up after the first 10 pairs completed their opening 500 race.
A third backup machine without Olympic logos was sent out, but it also failed to perform a smooth resurfacing. After an hourlong delay, one of the Olympic logo machines reappeared and resurfaced the ice. The competition resumed with the final 10 pairs about an hour later.
"Bad ice is bad ice," said American Shani Davis, whose time of 35.45 seconds placed him 18th after the first of two rounds.
"You've got to be ready for anything." Davis withdrew before the second round to focus on Wednesday's 1,000 meters, in which he is favored to win a gold medal.
"It was a technical problem, and we have now determined that there are no risks for the skaters," ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta said. "The ice must be safe. It seems that the ice is safe, and therefore we are doing the utmost to maintain the program." Cinquanta said there was discussion about postponing the men's sprint to another day.
"But you are a skater, you prepare yourself to skate twice in the same day," he said. "Then someone tells you, 'Oh, the first race is today, the other one is in two days.' You'd say, 'C'mon, what is that?' We are trying to stay with the language of the rules."
Arie Koops, sporting director of Dutch speedskating, said he believed the third machine wasn't ready to be used. "When skaters are not prepared for a race, you don't send them out. It should be the same with the resurfacing machine," he said. "If one machine was broken, they should have prepared the third. It was standing there in the garage. I have never seen anything like this."
There was a brief delay after the third pairing in the second round to repair the ice when a Polish skater fell.