Bird’s Nest: Visiting the Beijing National Stadium

Bird's Nest

My very first job after university was as a Gameplay Programmer at Eurocom (which sadly closed down last year). The game I worked on was Beijing 2008 the official video game of the Beijing 2008 Olympics. I spent 2 years staring at virtual models of the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube (we actually had the models before the buildings even existed!). I swore that one day I would see them for real.

Six years later I finally saw them.

It was tricky to find where we could get tickets. There were a lot of touts selling tickets – whether or not these were genuine I never found out. We found what seemed like a legitimate ticket office and purchased tickets to both the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube. To my disappointment it seemed that these were the only two stadiums we could visit.

Inside the Bird’s Nest

Once inside the first thing I noticed was that the field hadn’t been maintained much. It probably wasn’t being used that much, so they had no need to. On the actual race tracks people were zipping around on segways.

In the tourist shop I saw the Friendlies – the mascots of the Beijing Olympics. I was pretty excited to see them, but was then told by my girlfriend that these guys were really unpopular in China. This suddenly made sense of an odd request we received from Sega when working on the Game.

If you play Sonic and Mario at the Beijing Olympics, you will see the arenas full of Friendlies. Those arenas were created by artists at Eurocom and added into the game by Sega. The reviews were critical of the arenas in that game, which makes sense – they were still in the first-pass stage as that game was released 6 months earlier.

After the game came out Sega asked us to remove all friendlies from the environments because they were ‘too cute’ for the actual game. We never really understood why, but now I realise it’s probably because they were so unpopular in China.

Very Important Places

Since we bought VIP tickets we were allowed into some extra areas – the entrance hall, the VIP lounge, the VIP viewing area (where the Chairman would watch the games) and a meeting room were the Olympic Games Committee would meet. Whilst this was interesting to see, you aren’t missing much if you skip this part to save money.

Climbing the Bird’s Nest

After the tour we were allowed to wander the Bird’s Nest by ourselves. We were now at the top of it, but as it turns out we could go even higher.

We had to pay extra for this part – but I would recommend it. We were able to climb to the very top of the Bird’s Nest and see it from above. The only downside was that we were on the wrong side and thus couldn’t see the Water Cube from here – a missed opportunity in my opinion. Still, I wasn’t expecting to be able to do this and I loved that we could. Definitely do this, even if you don’t get VIP tickets.

The only thing left to do now was to go onto the track and field itself. Unfortunately it turned out we could only get in if we paid 200 RMB, and we could only ride a segway around the track. It didn’t seem worth the price to us, so we ended up leaving a little disappointed.

Still, it was awesome to finally see it after 6 years. Although I spent most of my time at Eurocom working on the Swimming and Diving events. With the Bird’s Nest out of the way it was time to visit the Water Cube…

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