Thursday, January 31, 2008
Bubbling with Excitement
Earlier this week the National Aquatic Center was completed after four years of construction.
And tonight I got a sneak preview of the Water Cube.
Officials say the venue for swimming, diving and synchronized swimming cost 1.02 billion yuan, and they are definitely paying for a showy building.
It's the bubbly outer surface that makes the place so unique. And at night it glows with a blue hue, making people curious of what's going on in there.
But unfortunately when you get inside it looks like any other swimming venue, with one pool for diving, the other a rectangular 100m pool with lanes.
Today was the start of the "Good Luck Beijing Swimming China Open", a test event where swimmers from around the world are trying to qualify for August.
Many of the top contenders were not there, like the United States, Australia, or Canada. But countries like China, Japan, Korea, and then Mexico, Spain, Estonia, Finland and Kazakhstan dived for the opportunity to try out the pool.
The venue seats 11,000 people and tonight several hundred sat in the stands to watch the event. Or was it to check out the building?
When the heats began, with the men's 100m butterfly, hardly anyone was clapping. You could hear the swimmers stroking their way up and down the pool and perhaps some light applause when they finished.
It looked much better on the big screen with underwater shots, or following them as they made their way across the pool and then declaring who finished in which lane.
However, the swim coaches and fellow swimmers tried to cheer their compatriots on with whistles and soon the audience realized they really should be urging everyone on. But they were partial to the Chinese swimmers, shouting "jia you!" or "keep going!"
The young staff looking after the swimmers' things worked in military precision, even synchronizing when they pick up the plastic boxes and marching off. Others working in the media section handed out a stream of papers with the swimmers' qualifying times and final results printed on them.
All of a sudden, the event was over; the finals are tomorrow. Staff started cleaning up and people filed outside.
The area outside the Water Cube isn't finished yet so while there is a bus stop, there's no infrastructure in place for people to wait for taxis. We had to wander up the street to finally flag one down. And even then we had to go a ways before being able to make a U-turn to get to where we wanted to go.
Although the venue's completed, did anyone think about how everyone was going to go home?