Wang Beixing, the speed skating competition director of the 2022 Winter Olympics organizing committee, tests the ice at the National Speed Skating Oval in Beijing in January. XINHUA Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Beijing 2022 organizers are refusing to compromise their efforts to perfect operational functions for the Games. Fresh from a smooth run of snow sports test events at mountain venues in February, Winter Games organizers are now focusing their attention on ice sports with a series domestic competitions at five venues in downtown Beijing, from April 1-10. As part of the adapted sports testing program tailored for Beijing 2022 in response to the pandemic situation, the plan will see competitions in five Olympic and two Paralympic disciplines, including ice hockey, speed skating and wheelchair curling, staged under vigilant COVID-19 protocols and involving over 700 Chinese athletes and team officials. Even without overseas athletes due to restrictions on international travel, organizers expect the test run to help shed light on the technical complexities of hosting Olympic ice sports up to international standards while guaranteeing the safety of all participants amid the global health crisis. "To run these tests thoroughly and effectively is crucial for hosting the Winter Olympics in a simplified, safe and excellent manner as required by the central government," Yao Hui, venue management director of the Beijing 2022 organizing committee, said during a news conference in the capital on Wednesday. "The goal is to put all our facilities through drills adhering to Games-time technical requirements and to help our operational staff gain practical experience to improve efficiency. "We will try to identify as many problems as possible in our venue operational procedures and fix them accordingly." Mirroring next year's Games-time schedule, the program will primarily test categories such as rink and track readiness, venue transformation between disciplines, and coronavirus prevention measures, according to Yao. Operational team leaders briefed the news conference on their progress at the ice sports venues. As a highlight of Beijing 2022's promise to promote sustainability and green development, the Chinese capital will use only one newly built venue－the National Speed Skating Oval－for ice sports. The other four venues are all existing ones that have been renovated and transformed from the 2008 Summer Olympics, staging other skating disciplines, curling and ice hockey. Key technical procedures to be practiced include the rink transformation between hosting short-track speed skating and figure skating at the Capital Indoor Stadium, control of ice quality amid the difficulties of variable humidity and temperatures at all venues, and the differences in ice thickness between the hockey and para-hockey competitions at the National Indoor Stadium. An international team of ice-making technicians, such as Canadian Mark Messer and Nelson Don Moffatt of the United States, have been working with Chinese assistants to prepare Olympic-standard rinks while sharing their expertise with the host on operational legacies beyond 2022. "By working and observing side by side with Mark, our Chinese staff have had invaluable lessons in some of the most sophisticated areas in the ice-making process, laying a talent foundation for us to operate the venue properly after the Games," said Wu Xiaonan, operation director of the National Speed Skating Oval. As Beijing 2022's oldest facility, the Capital Indoor Stadium, built in 1968 and refurbished before 2008 to host volleyball at the Summer Games, has been reinvented as a world-class ice sports center. The venue combines a historical design aesthetic with the latest technologies, such as an eco-friendly cooling system using carbon dioxide and a 360-degree circular screen. The rink transition to stage short-track speed skating and figure skating under one roof, which involves adjustments to the ice surface and the reinstallation of the safety padding, has been practiced at the venue, according to Ding Dong, the facility's operation director. "As an iconic time-honored sports venue in our country, the Capital Indoor Stadium will be revived with new dynamics by hosting the Winter Games," said Ding, who is also executive deputy director of the National Winter Sports Administrative Center. According to Beijing 2022, a provisional plan agreed with the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee and winter sports international federations is expected to see foreign athletes, technical delegates and broadcasters allowed entry to China to participate in 10 international test events from October to December. However, the arrangement is subject to change depending on the pandemic situation and will be reevaluated three months prior to the opening date of the respective events, according to Yao, Beijing 2022's venue management director.