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The Water Cube (Beijing National Aquatics Center), Beijing, P.R. China

Updated on March 6, 2009

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.

original photos by Beijing Discovery Tours

February 2008 - sitting behind Olympic Park construction
February 2008 - sitting behind Olympic Park construction
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With Olympic apartment buildings in the background, February 2008
With Olympic apartment buildings in the background, February 2008
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Beijing Summer Olympics mascot "Nini"
Beijing Summer Olympics mascot "Nini"
February 2008
February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Inside for the inaugural women's diving competition, February 2008
Guo Jingjing won the gold medal in this event at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.
Guo Jingjing won the gold medal in this event at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.
Wu Minxia won the bronze medal in this event at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.
Wu Minxia won the bronze medal in this event at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.
China took the gold and silver in this Olympic warm-up event.
China took the gold and silver in this Olympic warm-up event.
Awards ceremony February 2008
Awards ceremony February 2008
Awards ceremony February 2008
Awards ceremony February 2008
After the event February 2008
After the event February 2008
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With the Bird's Nest and Olympic flame August 2008
With the Bird's Nest and Olympic flame August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008 - this event was sold out, so why so many empty seats on the other side?
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008 - this event was sold out, so why so many empty seats on the other side?
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008
During the Beijing Summer Olympic Games August 2008

Comments

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    • profile image

      Erik Ahlblad 

      7 years ago

      The reaason I posted the question is that I saw another answer that said it was 13 meters deep; I don't trust it, it looks like it's only 5-7 meters deep with the water's refraction. 13 meters is about 43 feet deep. The diving tower is only 33 feet high.

    • profile image

      Erik Ahlblad 

      7 years ago

      What's the depth of the diving tank? I looked all over the internet and I can't get an official answer. Is that a secret? Is the Chinese government banning publication on the answer?

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