Saturday, January 10, 2009

Afterglow

Since getting tickets to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the glowing blue venue, accurately named the Water Cube, was virtually impossible, we decided to make it our business to venture back to the Olympic Green for another attempt at an up-close look and perhaps even a peek inside.

Now that China's "coming out" party is comfortably behind, the more popular Olympic sites are part of a tour route for travelers from all over the country. In this way, we joined the throng by purchasing our 30 kuai tickets at the northwest corner of the building, and then joining the zigzagging parade that lead to the southeast entrance. (While it seems that there is a bit of poor planning on this one, with respect to practicality, perhaps it was planned this way in the spirit of the Olympics...providing everyone with their daily exercise!)

Once inside the gates, the building structure was every bit as impressive as we thought it would be, with its puffy air-filled shapes of ETFE membranes (translucent, flexible plastic). When we entered the Water Cube itself, the foyer was open and airy, with lots of glass and a bubble motif on the walls. There were, of course, vendors selling snacks and souvenirs, and even water bottles designed with Water Cube patterns. Passing by all of this commercial activity unscathed, we were able to step inside the main competition hall. With unobstructed views of the pools and diving platforms, you could almost feel the Olympic spirit in the room. Imagining the record-setting wins by Michael Phelps, Dana Torres, and Guo Jingjing was easy to do, not only because we were sitting in the room where history took place...but also because of the huge LCD screen that continually played highlights from the games! Since it was difficult to keep our eyes off the screen, we moved up to the very top row, where flags from every country gave us coverage from the media blitz. We sat there for quite a while, taking in the aura and watching all the tourists, each one looking absolutely thrilled to be there...really!

Interestingly enough, the pools that were once used for the swimming events have been transformed. Beneath the surface of the water lies a complex web of metal pipes, which form an intricate fountain. Accompanied by an orchestra, these lighted streams of water are a part of the "Music Spectacular Watercube" (tickets from 200-800 kuai), which takes places almost every night until the end of January. Perhaps the venue would be better used in, say, the Asian Games, the world swimming championships...But, for now, it seems that the Water Cube is making its "splash" where entrepreneurship meets nationalism. How about that?

~Desi

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