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Skating Tuesday, 5 February, 2002, 13:52 GMT
Tip-off to ice-off
The Salt Lake Ice Center nears completion
The final touches are put to the new-look Delta Center
By BBC Sport Online's Alex Gubbay in Salt Lake City

When the figure skaters and their short track counterparts step onto the ice, they will be going for gold in the very same arena where Karl Malone and co normally slam dunk for the Utah Jazz.

While most of the venues for the 2002 Winter Games needed little extra preparation, the Delta Center in downtown Salt Lake City, home to the state's basketball team, was chosen to be the principal ice skating venue.

That meant turning a 20,000-seater basketball court, with hot dog stands and NBA merchandise at every corner, into a slightly more sedate, advert-free arena... with an ice rink.

Tip-off to ice-off
30 Jan:
Jazz beat Bulls. Court surface taken out, floor chilled
31 Jan/1 Feb:
Floor flooded, ice built-up, covered and basketball flooring replaced
2 Feb:
Jazz beat Portland
3 Feb:
Delta Center handed over to Olympic organisers
4 Feb:
Ice treated, course lines painted, rink boards installed
6 Feb:
First practice as Salt Lake Ice Center is officially opened

Initial planning started five years ago, but the practical conversion actually took place in between the Utah Jazz's two most recent NBA games.

Ice was put down last Thursday, and then covered up again as the Jazz signed off from Salt Lake for nearly a month with a 97-96 win over the Portland Trailblazers on Saturday.

With that game out of the way, final reconstruction swung into action on Sunday, and the 'Salt Lake Ice Center' should be officially opened for first practice on Wednesday.

"It all had to be very carefully scheduled, indeed you could say choreographed," admitted site manager, Karen Koppel.

Seats have been removed to make way for press and commentary positions, so capacity is reduced to 15,500, though some extra seats have been brought in low down to ensure there are "faces close to the ice".

Video boards will live above the jumbotron scoreboard that hangs above the centre of the rink, so everyone should be able to follow the skaters at any given moment.

All advertising inside the arena will be covered up to comply with the Olympic 'look', though bizarrely, the huge 'Delta Center' sign on the outside will remain, albeit with the Olympic rings underneath.

Karl Malone shoots for the basket
Malone in action in Utah's final home game for a month

"I'm very happy - it's been fascinating watching it build up over the past couple of days," said venue manager Penny Dain.

"I sat here and watched that final basketball game, and like everyone else was delighted it didn't go into overtime, though obviously for slightly different reasons.

"It was even better that the Jazz won, and as the announcer said, everyone was delighted to be handing the venue over to the skaters for the Games."

As for the Jazz, they now have a nine-game stretch on the road.

When they return, they should find their home exactly as it was before they left. It's just that a few skaters will have had some fun there in between.

 OUR MAN IN UTAH
BBC Sport Online's Alex Gubbay

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17 Jan 02 | BBC Coverage
BBC Sport Online at the Olympics
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