Beijing officials have stated that venue development for the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games is progressing as scheduled, as the arena regarded as the most significant new build hit a major construction milestone.

The National Speed Skating Oval, which will host speed skating competitions during Beijing 2022, has seen construction completed on its main structure. Located six kilometres from the Olympic Village, the 12,000-seat venue, which has been designed by Populous, will be the largest speed skating arena in Asia once complete.

“What the Oval is to Beijing 2022 is like what the Bird’s Nest stadium was to Beijing 2008,” Ding Jianming, deputy director of the Beijing Major Projects Construction Headquarters Office, said, according to state news agency Xinhua. “The completion of the roof and the free curving curtain wall of the Oval represents the hard work of all constructors over the past year.”

Also known as the ‘Ice Belt’, the venue aims to encourage sustainability through state-of-the-art technology, including innovative energy conservation and low-carbon emission techniques. Wu Xiaonan, chairman of the Oval, said heat generated from ice-making will be used to melt ice in the ice-melting cistern and maintain the ice surface, helping to save about two million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year.

Xinhua added that by using artificial intelligence tech for the ice-making system, indoor environment control and energy conservation, the Oval will be able to accurately control the temperature and thickness of the ice and the stability of its surface. Meanwhile, the temperature of the arena’s seating bowl will be kept around 16°C.

Construction of the Oval is expected to be complete by June in time to meet the schedule for test events. Huang Hui, deputy vision director of the construction vision of Beijing Major Projects Construction Headquarters Office, added: “Completing the main structure of the National Speed Skating Oval means all venues in Beijing and Yanqing zone… progressed as scheduled in 2019.”