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A general view of the venue at Richmond Olympic Oval in Richmond, B.C. The Richmond Olympic Oval will be the site of long track speed skating during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. ((Doug Pensinger/Getty Images))

The Richmond Olympic Oval is on the banks of the Fraser River, 14 kilometers south of downtown Vancouver. The complex is larger than a football field and seats 8,000.

Large panes of glass along the exterior walls provide natural lighting. The ceiling was constructed with a million board feet of beetle-infested wood that otherwise would have gone to waste. The wood is joined together in such a way to create a rippled effect that gives one the feel of being sheltered by a massive heron’s wing.

The facility, which is slightly above sea level, is a masterpiece of environmental sustainability, with rainwater from the roof collected for irrigation and toilet flushing, and a refrigeration plant designed to heat other areas of the building through waste heat recovery.

The American Shani Davis became the first winner at the oval when he captured the 1,500 meters at the World Single Distance Championships in March. The oval is not considered as fast as the one used during the 1988 Olympics in Calgary because it is so near sea level, meaning the skaters face more resistance with every stride.

The venue will also house the official antidoping lab. After the Games, it will be transformed into a multi-use sports facility that will include two Olympic-size ice rinks, hardwood ball courts, a gymnasium, a track and a high-performance center for elite athletes