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Swimming venue set for debut
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08:40, January 11, 2008

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The "Water Cube", or National Aquatics Center, will host its first major swimming event this month.

Final preparations are being made for the "Good Luck Beijing" Swimming China Open, which will run from January 31 to February 5.

The center will be one of the key venues during the Beijing Olympics, playing host to the swimming, diving, and synchronized swimming events, with 42 gold medals up for grabs.

The stadium has a capacity of 17,000, comprising 6,000 permanent seats and 11,000 temporary ones, which can be installed for major events.

"Our ideas for the project have almost been realized," Zhao Xiaojun, one of the Water Cube's designers, said during an interview on CCTV on Wednesday.

Some 6,700 tons of steel, 1,300 tons of welding rods and more than 3,000 pieces of special outer membrane material were used to construct the 80,000-sq-m facility just west of the National Stadium, or "Bird's Nest".

The venue has attracted worldwide attention with its unique blue bubble design.

"At the beginning of the design process, we decided the venue should express a kind of happiness that combines water and people," Zhao said.

The exterior is covered with a membrane made of an advanced material known as ethylene-tetra-fluoro-ethylene, or ETFE.

The Water Cube uses more than 100,000 sq m of ETFE, making it the world's largest single structure made of the material.

"The lifespan of the material is about 30 years so the economic returns for the whole project should be very good," Zhao said.

Source: China Daily

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