|Mexico City's eco-friendly skating rink at the central Zocalo square, on December 17, 2019. — AFP/VNA Photo|
by Sofia Miselem
Mexico is better known for cactus-dotted deserts and Caribbean beaches than winter sports, but the capital's central square is celebrating winter with an enormous, eco-friendly artificial ice rink.
The thermometre reads a relatively balmy 21 degrees Celsius, but the Zocalo, as Mexico City's main plaza is known, is full of revellers skating – generally with more eagerness than aptitude – across a sprawling sheet of specialised plastic.
Open until January 6, the rink is the largest of its kind in the world, at 4,000 sq.m, according to organisers.
It is made of high-density polymer, whose chemical characteristics make it almost indistinguishable from ice.
In 2007, when the city first began setting up a winter rink in the Zocalo, it used real ice, keeping it frozen with enormous refrigeration machines.
But the new surface has enabled the popular holiday attraction to go green.
"We don't need any water, we don't need electricity, we don't need fuel and we don't emit carbon dioxide. This rink, as you see it here, requires no energy," said Hans Broder, of Swiss company Glice, which installed the rink.
"We are saving enough energy to power 4,000 homes," he said.
"We want to bring people the dream of winter, so kids everywhere can ice skate, no matter the climate."
The sprawling white surface stands out against the gray stone of the soaring colonial buildings that surround the Zocalo, once the heart of the Aztec empire, today decorated with brightly lit holiday ornaments.
"It's the first time I've tried ice skating. I'm afraid of falling, I keep losing my balance," said a nervous Stephanie Minon, nine, clinging to the arm of her father, Edgar – before both slipped and fell to the "ice" in a shriek of laughter.
Organisers expect around 10,000 people a day at the rink, which is free of charge and can hold up to 1,200 at a time. They have 3,000 pairs of skates to lend to those who do not bring their own.
Mexico City's eco-friendly skating rink at the central Zocalo square, on December 17, 2019
The skating rink, installed by Swiss company Glice, is made of a high-density polymer whose chemical characteristics make it almost indistinguishable from ice.
Projectors are used to shine colourful Christmas-themed designs on a government building in Mexico City's Zocalo square. — AFP