Water Cube: Visiting the National Aquatics Center


After leaving the Bird’s Nest we wandered over to the National Aquatics Center (a.k.a. the Water Cube).  The events I focused on when making the official Olympics game were the Swimming and the Diving events, so I had spent more time working with the Water Cube than the other arenas.  The Water Cube didn’t seem to be as much of a big deal as the National Stadium, but for me it was.

Outside the Water Cube

From the outside you can see how the National Aquatics Center gets its nickname.  It looks like a cuboid made up of blue bubbles. Despite it not actually being in the shape of a cube, it’s still known as the Water Cube.  I always thought that the bubbles were made of a solid plastic – but it seems that they are actually made of something that seems like clingfilm (later on I found out this stuff was called EFTE).

After passing through the entrance gate the first thing Yi did was to run up to the side of the Water Cube and try to climb it. She really wanted to touch the bubbles! Outside was a sign saying “H2O^3” which I thought was pretty clever.

Inside the Water Cube

Inside the Water Cube there was a pool full of koi that you could feed milk to, and several restaurants serving overpriced, low-quality food (as you would expect in any tourist trap). We could also see the water park that was built, although at this time it was closed.

Finally we made our way to the actual swimming pool. It feels weird to say this having never actually been there, but it was exactly as I remember it. I remembered staring at the thing for ages, tweaking the difficulty so that you could just about beat the world records if you tried hard enough. Then just as I got it perfect, Eamon Sullivan had to beat the 50m Freestyle record meaning I had to tweak it again.

I was glad to see that this place was still being used as a swimming pool, and not something gimmicky like segway-riding. I sat down to watch for a short while and on noticing the flags at the top I immediately turned around and pointed out the British flag to my girlfriend without even looking. I hadn’t even been here before but I could still remember the exact location of our flag. Say what you will about the game, but the artists really got the details right.

We were getting hungry now so we went to the nearest Macdonalds to get food. Unfortunately it turned out that they were selling only one set meal at a ridiculously expensive price, so we decided to head back towards the center of Beijing to find some real food.