Maybe they should have gone with a Zamboni

Olympic Oval ice maker Mark Messer drives the backup ice cleaning machine during a break in the action at the men's 500m long track speedskating event at the Olympic Winter Games in Richmond, B.C., on Monday Feb. 15, 2010. Competition was delayed as both main ice cleaning machines failed to work during the break. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

RICHMOND, B.C. - The pressure of the Games has gotten to many an athlete over the years, but so far at the Richmond Olympic Oval, it's the Olympia ice-resurfacing machines that are struggling to perform on the big stage.

Problems with the lever that lowers the blade to resurface the ice and leave it smooth nearly derailed the men's 500-metre event Monday, the second straight day problems delayed long-track speedskating competition at the Vancouver Games.

Maybe, Canadian Kyle Parrott suggested, they should have gone with a Zamboni.

"Zambonis work," Parrott told The Canadian Press.

Indeed, in a late-day announcement Monday, the Vancouver organizing committee known as VANOC declared they would be doing exactly that. A Zamboni ice resurfacer from Calgary was to be on the ice by Tuesday, they said.

In an effort to preserve the carbon-neutral goal of the 2010 Games, organizers originally went with the Olympia machines, which run on electricity. By day's end Monday, they were clearly rethinking that decision.

"I realize they wanted to make a green Games ... but Zambonis in the past have worked for years and years and years," Parrott said.

"I don't know why they didn't stick with them, especially when we've had problems with (the Olympias) in training here in the past. From my experience, they've been nothing but problems, but we'll see if they keep them or if they use them in the next Games."

With one machine already out of commission after dumping snow and water about 20 metres from the inner lane's finish line Sunday, a second unit did the same thing Monday during a scheduled resurfacing after 10 pairs had raced in the first of two men's 500 races.

This time, the machine had to be pulled out of commission for some frantic repairs while a third unit, looking stark naked in plain white without the Olympic markings of its counterparts, was hauled out for an emergency flood.

Instead, it butchered the ice, prompting the Dutch team to suggest postponing the race, a notion rejected by International Skating Union officials, including president Ottavio Cinquanta.

Eventually, the secondary unit was repaired, and after three separate turns around the oval, each with chief ice-maker Mark Messer at the helm, the ice was smoothed out and skating allowed to resume after a 70-minute delay.

"I tried with those involved, with the referee and so on, to take the final decision to complete the competition," said Cinquanta, a 71-year-old Italian who has led the skating union for the last 16 years.

"We prefer to stay with the original program because we considered the interest of television viewers and the organization of the rest of the skaters and so on. In sport, in technology, something can happen. The organization is doing the utmost."

The decision was taken after a meeting with officials from several countries in the oval's infield. Beforehand, Dutch national team coach Wopke de Vegt and American counterpart Ryan Shimabukuro repeatedly skated around the ice, shaking their heads in frustration. Speed Skating Canada's Olympic program director Brian Rahill also piped in as he stood in the infield.

The Dutch eventually accepted the decision to resume.

"If it's not well prepared, then the top 10 skaters will not be in the top 10," Koops said of the ice. "Then we'll also have an awful race. Those guys are preparing for 10 years for such a race."

— With files from Gavin Day