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I remember many articles about ice rinks being used as mortuaries, as COVID deaths were increasing. One of the more notable stories can be found here: Spain transforms ice rink into makeshift mortuary to cope with coronavirus deaths

However, according to Knoema, overall deaths in Spain in 2020 were not significantly more than expected.

I also can't find pictures of ice rinks with actual bodies. I only ever read these articles when the ice rinks were prepared to be used, but not when they were actually used.

Did Spain really use an ice rink as mortuary, or was it only preparing to use it, but never actually needed to use it because the number of deaths wasn't as big as expected?

When people tell me that COVID is not a big deal, I point to stories like that. However it seems that these stories don't make much sense under closer scrutiny.

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    Note that there is no conflict between "Everything is over capacity, people are dropping like flies" and "Overall deaths not more than expected". In Sweden we had a lot of elderly dying early on, but they were also the weakest and would have died anyway during the next months. Doesn't mean the system can manage everyone at once.
    – pipe
    Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 23:11
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    To clarify – are you skeptical about the claim that Spain used ice rinks as make-shift morgues, or are you skeptical about the claim that Spain had a notable number of excessive deaths in 2020?
    – Schmuddi
    Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 5:03
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    @pipe re: "would have died anyway during the next months" that statement is not supported by evidence.
    – De Novo
    Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 5:03
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    I don't see why one should be skeptical about that. Madrid placing caskets in an ice stadium isn't something that need special effort to be found out.
    – Alchimista
    Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 13:40
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    I don't understand your source for the overall mortality in Spain in 2020 (knoema website): if you click on "Explore data", it seems that they interpolated data from June 2019. Note also that the last update was March 26, 2020, when Spain was in the midlle of its 1st wave.
    – Taladris
    Commented Jan 19, 2021 at 8:51

1 Answer 1

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The ice rink is called Palacio de Hielo (“Palace of Ice”) and it is located in Madrid. Spanish language newspaper El Mundo has multiple articles from April 2020 (article 1, article 2) which include photos of the inside with caskets lined up:

H section of caskets in ice rink

This rink was only a little to the west of IFEMA Hospital, a provisional hospital which ran from March 22, 2020 to May 1, 2020. According to Alamy, the makeshift morgue opened on March 24, 2020.

Alamy has another photo of the rink from higher up, which seems to have been taken after they stopped housing caskets there (though what is almost certainly turf is still covering the ice). Alamy's other photos of Palacio de Hielo show some other facets of the operation in various stages, such as the workers in protective gear, emergency vehicles/army trucks/hearses waiting outside, and more.

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    The 'carpet' is probably so that the staff don't have to wear ice skates. It might be very difficult even for a group of trained skaters to carry a coffin across ice. Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 12:42
  • @WeatherVane That’s definitely the purpose but I think it’s actually artificial grass and not (ugly) grass colored carpet. There’s a place near me that hosts (hosted?) games for three different sports (hockey, basketball, and lacrosse) plus concerts, all in the same arena. The ice is covered up when they don’t need it. (Yes, I think I’ve clearly overthought this part of the answer.)
    – Laurel
    Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 17:10
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    Some facilities have seasonal rinks: ice in the winter and non-ice sports in the summer. This could have been set up for say indoor soccer, and they simply turned on the cooling, which is buried within the concrete floor. Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 13:28

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