Size matters in the battle of the skating rinks

By Adrienne Mertin

The Rideau Canal might not look any different from last winter, but it has had an identity change.

In its 36th skating season, the canal holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest, not longest, naturally frozen ice rink.

Lucie Caron, media relations for the National Capital Commission, says the canal’s size impressed Guinness World Records.

The NCC sent Guinness both the length and area of the ice in February 2004. In August last year, Guinness announced the record.

“They noted the size because they hadn’t seen anything comparable in the world,” she says.

The skating surface is equal to 90 Olympic-sized ice rinks, or 165,624 square metres. Before Guinness awarded the record, the NCC said the canal was the longest ice rink in the world, measuring 7.8 kilometres.

Caron says the cost to update the marketing material for Winterlude was not much higher than the usual budget.

“We change our maps and calendars every year,” she says, “We wanted to get the word out early so we could include the record in the material.”

Signs on overpasses like the Bronson Avenue. bridge were changed to show off the record.

“All we did was cover the word ‘longest’ with the world ‘largest’,” says Caron.

The signs also included the blue Guinness World Records symbol. Caron says it was a cost-efficient way to make the change.

But some ice skaters did not care that the canal now boasts an official record.

“I didn’t come because it’s the biggest, no,” says Monique Labonte, 56. She came from Montreal to experience Winterlude.

“People told me it was wonderful to come here, so that is why I came.”

Daisuke Matsuura, 32, experienced his first skate on Ottawa’s record-breaking ice this year after moving from Japan. “I saw on a website in Japan that it is the biggest in the world,” he says, “and it is fabulous.”

Japan is not the only country that advertised the canal’s title as the world’s largest ice rink. Caron says it made international headlines in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Australia.

The NCC says that during Winterlude in 2004, 73 per cent of visitors skated on the canal. Of the four official event sites, the canal is the most popular. According to the NCC, over one million people visit it each year.

“The record creates more notoriety for the canal,” says Caron.

Friends of the Rideau canal is a non-profit organization that works with Parks Canada to teach people about the canal and its environment. They are most involved with the canal in the summer, but the winter record is still interests the organization.

“Anything Rideau is to our advantage,” says office administrator Nancy Lake. “It’s been advertised so much and you can’t have too much advertising.”

Caron says the NCC based the claim of the ice rink being the longest on a measurement from a sporting event held on the ice several years ago. She says some people still call the canal the longest because they are used to the old title.

“It just takes some getting used to,” says Caron.