Welding And Gases In The Games

How your industry is making the 2010 Olympic Games possible.

The Olympic Torch
Photo courtesy VANOC

Much like the athletes participating in the games, each Olympic host city tries to set the bar a little bit higher than it was four years before. This year, Vancouver continues the tradition as it hosts the 2010 Winter Olympics. From the longest domestic torch relay of all time to its efforts to be completely carbon-neutral, the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) is working hard to make sure that this Olympics is a memorable one.

Fortunately, they’ve got some help. The gases and welding industry is hard at work behind the scenes making sure everything goes off without a hitch. In another article in this magazine, you can find out about the welding that goes into building a bobsled. Below are a few more examples of how the gases and welding industry is working behind the scenes to make sure that the Vancouver Olympics are a rousing success.

The Olympic Torch
One of the most enduring symbols of the Olympic Games, each host country designs a torch that carries a flame from Athens, Greece, the site of the first Olympic Games, to the site of that year’s opening ceremony. This year’s torch was designed and manufactured by Bombardier in collaboration with VANOC. No less than 12,000 torchbearers will hold the flame as it travels on its 45,000-kilometer journey through Canada. The torch is 37.125 inches tall and weighs in at 3.5 pounds. It is formed from a stainless steel, aluminum and sheet molding compound. Fueling the torch is a blend of propane, isobutene and hydrocarbons that give it a 15-minute burn time.

Hydrogen-Powered Bus
Photo courtesy Government of Alberta

Hydrogen-Powered Buses Help Vancouver Stay Neutral
When VANOC started planning the 2010 games, it had an ambitious goal in mind—to make the Olympic Games completely carbon-neutral. That’s a pretty bold statement, especially considering that a large mass-transit infrastructure was going to have to be in place to transport visitors and athletes. VANOC needed a solution, and horse-drawn bobsleds just weren’t going to do the trick.

Instead, the committee decided to commission a zero-emission bus fleet. This squad of 20 fuel cell buses will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1,800 tons in its first year of operation. It’s an unprecedented operation and VANOC wouldn’t have been able to pull it off without the help of GAWDA member Air Liquide. The company will be providing all of the hydrogen fuel that will be used in the buses. The hydrogen, which is produced from 98 percent renewable resources, generated by electrolysis predominantly using hydro-electricity from Quebec, will be dispensed in the massive fill station that Air Liquide designed, built and operates in Whistler, British Columbia, the site of many of the Olympic events. The station is the largest hydrogen fuel station in the world, making it the first record-breaker of the 2010 Olympic Games.

Ski Jump
Photo courtesy VANOC

Massive Welding Project Launches Ski Jump
Ski jumping is one of the Olympic Games’ most breathtaking sports. Competitors hurl themselves down a 125-meter ramp at speeds of nearly 60 miles per hour before sending themselves flying off of the ramp with nothing but a pair of skis
separating them from a bone-crushing landing

 The only thing more challenging than competing in the Olympic ski jump competition might be the task that Burnaby, British Columbia-based Dynamic Structures took on building the two Olympic ski jumps. If constructing such massive structures wasn’t hard enough, the 95- and 125-meter structures had to be constructed on a remote mountainside. The construction required a 650-ton tubular truss-type structure built under tolerances lower than 5mm. International Ski Federation regulations meant that the profiles of the ski jump had to fit extremely strict welding standards, in this case AWS D1.1. The biggest challenge came from forming, fabricating and welding tubular trusses that were 95 and 125 meters long, eight meters wide and four meters high. This was critical for both the performance and the safety of the ski jumpers. They also had to be built flexible enough to allow for transportation and assembly on the mountainside. This month, as the ski jumpers are hurling down the hill, it will be the welding industry that is holding them up.

Making snow

Snow Problem
What if you planned a skiing and snowboarding competition and Mother Nature didn’t show up? That’s an issue that’s been plaguing VANOC in the months leading up to the Olympics. Unseasonably warm temperatures have left the “Cypress Bowl” skiing facility without enough snow to hold an event.

To help remedy the situation, VANOC brought in 35 snow makers. These machines use highly compressed air and water to produce artificial snow that takes 50 times longer to melt than natural snow. As of January, Cypress Bowl had turned more than 95.3 million liters of water into snow.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association