It didn’t take long for the Vancouver Olympics to earn itself an unwanted nickname: the Glitch Games. One slipup, the lack of padding and protection on the dangerously fast Whistler sliding track, contributed to an unthinkable tragedy. The others were just embarrassing. A lack of precipitation at Cypress Mountain, host to the snowboarding and freestyle-skiing events, forced organizers to helicopter in snow at the last second. And during the opening ceremonies, four mechanical torches were supposed to rise from the floor and be lit by Canada’s most famous athletes, including hockey great Wayne Gretzky. But one of the massive columns malfunctioned, leaving the athletes stranded and looking peeved in front of millions of television viewers. (Read “Why Would Anyone Want to Be an Olympic Volunteer?”)
But for pure ludicrousness, nothing could beat Zamboni-gate. On Feb. 15, the 500-m track-speedskating event was delayed for an hour after two ice machines, used to smooth the frozen surface between races, broke down. Rather than wait out the delay and destroy his rhythm, American skater Shani Davis even pulled out of the event. These machines weren’t manufactured by Zamboni, the Xerox of ice cleaners, but rather Olympia, a rival company that had signed an Olympic sponsorship. To fix the problem, Olympic officials ordered a Zamboni to be shipped in from Calgary.