The "Water Cube," one of the two iconic venues for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was unveiled on Monday.
National Aquatics Center, also known as the Water Cube is seen in this picture taken in Beijing January 23, 2008. The center, built for the Beijing Olympics, will host its first event -- the "Good Luck Beijing" Swimming China Open -- from January 31 to February 5.
Known officially as the National Aquatics Center, the Water Cube has been dubbed the "cool" building of the Games. The building's design and its translucent, blue-toned outside skin make it look like a cube of bubbles -- like "bubble wrap."
Forty-two gold medals will be handed out at the Water Cube during the Olympics, which will start August 8, 2008.
It was the public's first look at the building after a little more than three years of construction.
The venue has 6,000 permanent and 11,000 temporary seats. Like the 91,000-seat National Stadium -- the "Bird's Nest," which will be completed in March -- both are seen as works of art and will anchor the Olympic Green area.
The Water Cube has been built to be converted to a shopping area and leisure center with tennis courts, retail outlets, nightclubs and restaurants.
"This building was designed for use after the Games," said John Pauline of PTW Architects, one of the lead architects on the Water Cube. "We were looking at 30 or 40 years from now."
The outside skin is made of a Teflon-like material, ETFE (ethylene-tetrafluoroethylene). Composed of two layers, it's separated by an interior passage that allows the building to breathe like a greenhouse.
The Water Cube was built at a cost of more than US$200 million (euro136 million), with donations of US$110 million (euro75 million) from people in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.
There will be 37 venues for the Olympics. Beijing is the site of 31, 12 new, 11 renovated, and eight temporary structures. Most are located in four clusters in the north of the city. Five more venues for soccer and sailing are located outside Beijing, and equestrian events will be held in Hong Kong.
Organizers will stage a swim meet in the Water Cube on Friday to test the facilities.
(Agencies via China Daily January 28, 2008)