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Aquatics center opens with a splash
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08:25, January 29, 2008

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The Water Cube, the showcase venue for water sports at this summer's Olympics, opened to the public yesterday.

"It is an ideal venue in every sense," Li Aiqing, president of the Beijing State-owned Assets Management Co Ltd, which now officially runs the building, said.

After the Games, we will make it an affordable complex for entertainment, sports and shopping," he told local and international journalists.

"I also hope to bring my daughter here for something like 30 yuan ($4.20) and make a splash together."

Formally known as the National Aquatics Center, the building is widely recognized for its unique, bubble-like outer padding made of ethylene-tetrafluoroethylene plastic pillows, which glisten in the sun.

Designers from China and Australia were behind the structure.

Inside the 11,000-seat venue, the swimming and diving pools have already been filled, while the blue and white seats mirror the color of the water and bubbled ceiling.

"This is the biggest, most unique and most complex water sports venue in the world," Li said.

"The water in the pool is even better than drinking water."

The Water Cube's distinctive air cushions have mechanisms to help keep birds from affecting the structure, which cost 1.02 billion yuan.

Funding came mostly from wealthy Chinese living outside the mainland.

"We won't let woodpeckers get near the venue," Zheng Fang, an architect who worked on the project, said.

The pool will be tested in a trial starting on Thursday, about four years after construction began.

During the Olympics from Aug 8-24, the Cube will host swimming, diving and synchronized swimming events, with a total of 42 gold medals up for grabs.

"I am just eager to see what exactly the Cube bubbles are made of," Han Mingbing, a Beijing-based travel agent, said.

"I would love to swim there if it is affordable," he said.

Source: China Daily

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