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Olympic venues show the art of competition

Olympic Basketball Gymnasium

Home of: Basketball

Wonky stuff: The "bamboo shoots" exterior is made of aluminum alloy boards and is capable of reflecting 80 percent of the sun's heat. It can result in energy savings of 60 percent in the summer and 70 percent in the winter, the designers say. Inside are three underground levels and four above ground, and 45 luxury boxes. The arena was designed to NBA standards; NBA China has a deal to use it in the future.

"Wow" stuff: Anyone who's seen the grain-covered Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D., will notice a resemblance. The arena's original design, by Swiss architectural firm Burckhardt+Partner, went for a high-tech TV look: It was a cube with giant LED screens covering the outside so games could be broadcast live for people who couldn't get a ticket. That ended up being scrapped, ostensibly for cost reasons. Some speculation is that it was too high tech for the Chinese.

After the Games: It's part of the Wukesong sports complex, which will become a commercial, sports and hanging-out place for residents of west Beijing.

National Stadium

a.k.a. the Bird's Nest

Home of: Opening and closing ceremonies, track and field, soccer finals

Wonky stuff: Organizers are calling it the world's largest steel structure. The steel is surrounded by membrane material, which is supposed to make the stadium soundproof, windproof and rainproof, and offer UVA protection. The membrane can also help diminish glare and shadows on the competition areas.

"Wow" stuff: Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist hired by Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron to help design the stadium, has been called China's Picasso. "I have always stated I designed the stadium as a toilet seat," Ai, 50, told the Believer magazine last year. He told Britain's Guardian newspaper that he hates that the stadium has become a symbol of China's march toward modernism; he called it a "pretend smile." As a child, Ai spent several years in a remote province where his father, Ai Qin, one of China's most respected modern poets, was exiled for political reasons.

After the Games: It will host international, region and national sports events, and nonsports events. It already includes a restaurant and an underground shopping mall.

China Agricultural University Gymnasium

Home of: Wrestling

Wonky stuff: Panes of glass separate the roof's "steps" and can be automatically adjusted for ventilation and to add natural light. The skylights are supposed to be able to provide enough light for day events, even in cloudy weather. Gao Jianwen, a senior engineer at the university, said the building will use 30 percent less electricity than it would have if it had been built traditionally.

"Wow" stuff: The gym's training area for athletes originally was the site of an indoor swimming pool. The pool was filled in, but it will be revived after the Games.

After the Games: Along with the indoor pool being brought back, the gym will be a multiuse facility for students and staff, and neighborhood residents. It also may be used for training for some of China's national teams.

Beijing University of Technology Gymnasium

Home of: Badminton, rhythmic gymnastics

Wonky stuff: It has what is being called the world's largest prestressed suspension dome ceiling, which is as long as a football field. Because badminton and rhythmic gymnastics involve tossing around nearly weightless objects, each has strict requirements for wind speed during competitions. The gym's air-circulation system had to meet those standards. University vice president Zhang Ailin says it was done in part by putting three 5-inch vents under each seat, for a total of 9,100.

"Wow" stuff: It's one of two venues that look like something out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind; the other is the Laoshan Velodrome.

After the Games: It will be the university's activity center, a recreation center for residents of southeast Beijing and a training base for China's badminton team.

National Aquatics Center

a.k.a. the Water Cube

Home of: Swimming, diving, synchronized swimming

Wonky stuff: The outside is supposed to look like it's covered with water bubbles. The bubbles are air cushions of membrane material made of a kind of plastic that's been called the "king of plastics." The design uses natural ventilation and light for temperature and humidity control, and the building has a water-recycling system being promoted as a model.

"Wow" stuff: Marie Claire magazine named it Sexiest Building on its list of 101 Sexiest Things.

After the Games: It will be converted into a multiuse facility for sports, culture and recreation.

SPORTS.TAMPABAY.COM . Now and throughout the Olympics, find news updates, previous stories and schedules.

"You can imagine the pressure when 1.3-billion people are watching you."

Huang Yubin, China's gymnastics coach, on his teams being anxious about competing at home

Olympic venues show the art of competition 08/03/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 4, 2008 2:44pm]
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