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The Water Cube (Beijing National Aquatics Center), Beijing, P.R. China
out-of-this-world venue for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games
The Beijing National Aquatics Center, better known as the Water Cube, was and is one of the most spectacular buildings in the world, and it was built specifically for the swimming and diving competitions during the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games. With its unique construction from ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) air-filled bubbles, the building looks like something from another world, particularly when it is lit up from the inside of its bubbles at night.
Conceived as the "water" element to counterbalance the "fire" element of the National Stadium (Bird's Nest) next door, the Water Cube was built with both Chinese symbolism and energy efficiency in mind. The actual design for the exterior covering came from what is known as the Weaire-Phelan structure, which is based on the organic formation of bubbles in the foam of soap. The translucent ETFE covering of the building allows for more light and heat to enter the building, resulting in an overall savings of around 30% in energy costs.
Due to the advanced design of the swimming pool itself, many people believed that it was the "fastest pool in the world". The greater depth of the pool (one meter deeper than most other Olympic pools) allowed for the waves created by the swimmers to dissipate below them, cutting down on wave turbulence. The gutters alongside the water were also perforated, which helped waves to dissipate as well. Along with the use of the technologically advanced LZR Racer swimming suits created by Speedo, the cutting-edge design of the pool helped swimmers during the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics to set 25 new world records.
Currently tours are allowed inside of the Water Cube, and any reputable Beijing tour company can take you on a tour of the Olympic Park, including visits to see the inside of the National Stadium (Bird's Nest) and the Water Cube. There are plans to redevelop the Water Cube for public use, as well as to develop the area around both the Water Cube and Bird's Nest, so it is not known how long such tours inside the venues will be available. One tour idea is to take a half-day to see the Olympic Park venues in combination with a half-day Great Wall tour to see the Mutianyu, Juyongguan or Badaling sections of the Great Wall near Beijing. But as with most things in China, changes occur rapidly, so if you want to see the Water Cube and Bird's Nest pretty much as they were during the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, you had better see them soon.