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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Officials Running a Dead Heat for Ice

ST. PETERSBURG -- First it was a swimming pool with brackish water. Now it is an ice rink with no ice.


While small glitches have troubled these Goodwill Games, organizers did not figure that making ice in one of the world's northernmost cities would be one of them.


"There have been problems in other big events I've been to, but there's always been ice," said American pairs skater Stephanie Stiegler.


Organizers promised the Yubileiny Palace of Sports would have ice for Tuesday's short-track speedskating events, although skaters were dubious about how good it would be. Figure skating, one of the glamour events of the Games, begins Wednesday.


Boxing ended Saturday at the same venue. Workers poured water on the white concrete floor Monday, but unseasonably hot, humid weather was slowing the freezing and forced practice to an adjacent auxiliary rink.


"I can't imagine having a competition as big as this one and having preparations like this happen," said American skater Elaine Zayak, the 1982 world champion. The Russians, she said, "are used to everything and anything, and in the United States we're used to things like this being done to perfection."


Practice in the auxiliary rink was an adventure. The ice was soft and brown-colored, apparently picking up the shade of the floor beneath. American pairs skater Lance Travis, who teams with Stiegler, could not get over it.


"It looks like it has been mixed with oil," Travis said. "It's got a weird texture to it."


"The ice will be ready, the question is what will the quality be?" Zayak asked. "I don't want to get hurt out there. The practice ice is very dangerous. It's like a three-hour public session has just been on it. I just hope the other ice is better."


Peter Oppegard, a former Olympic bronze medalist in pairs who coaches Travis and Stiegler, downplayed the safety problem.


"Americans tend to be used to nicer, more perfect ice,"


Oppegard said. "I don't think the practice conditions are bad enough you could call them dangerous. But everyone has their own opinion. If the ice is thin, they'll have to adjust the jumps."


Even Russian Artur Dmitriev, who has won Olympic gold and silver pairing with Natalia Mishkutienok, said practice conditions were poor.


"Usually we have ice here in better condition," said Dmitriev, who lives in St. Petersburg and trains regularly on Yubileiny's main rink. "It's bad but O.K. for practice."


Organizers of the biggest sports event in post-Soviet Russia were red-faced early in the 16-day event when murky, green water from a failed filtration system forced a one-day delay in swimming. They pledged no delays in skating.