Named after their inventor, Frank Zamboni, the machines are American and from California. The first one was developed in 1949, based off an Army surplus vehicle chassis, so a milestone anniversary is just around the corner. The machines shave, wash and squeegee the surface, so that skate-marked ice and otherwise uneven surfaces are restored to useable condition.
Interestingly, as The New York Times reports, the ice in the Pyeongchang Games is resurfaced using few local drivers. Instead, Zamboni drivers were sourced from abroad — apparently ice technicians and useable machines are just not that easy to come by in South Korea. At the 2018 Games, 15 drivers are from the United States, eight are Canadian, five are Japanese. And the nine South Korean drivers mostly just surface practice rinks, according to the article.
"I have really good American drivers," said Remy Boehler of France, in charge of ice for the figure skating and short-track speedskating arena and practice rinks. "For me, it is a dream team."
There are 17 Zambonis in use at the games, overseen by three ice managers at four competition venues. And every kind of ice sport needs a specific kind of ice surface for the competitors to be able to give their very best. Figure skating demands thicker, softer ice. Short-track needs colder ice, but not too brittle that it gives way on the tight corners. And the long-track oval "has to be absolutely perfect," said Paul Golomski, who is the facility director of Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee. "Thickness is critical. The amount of speed they're carrying, the ice has to be perfectly flat."
"I can teach anybody to drive the Zamboni," said Don Moffatt, who manages a team of 16 drivers at the ice hockey arena, "but it takes many, many years to learn how to actually operate it and operate it properly."
The Olympics are not a place to train people."