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Last Updated: Friday, 1 February 2008, 12:33 GMT
China unveils 'Water Cube' venue
French coach Claude Fauquet at the test event at the National Aquatic Centre in Beijing
The Aquatic Centre staged a test event three days after opening
Beijing Olympic officials have officially unveiled the bubble-wrapped National Aquatics Centre.

Nicknamed the "Water Cube", the imposing 72m venue is clad in a honeycomb of transparent cushions and was funded by overseas donations.

Li Aiqing, president of the company behind construction, said: "The whole project is complex and unique.

"After five years of effort, we are very, very happy. It is one of the biggest swimming centres in the world."

The cushions in the outer layer of the building comprise over 100,000 square metres of ETFE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene), a plastic with a melting-point of 275C.

No fewer than 6,700 tonnes of steel and 1,300 tonnes of welding rods were also used in the construction.


But the venue, which will have a 17,000 capacity, has an early safety problem which needs fixing, after a crack was spotted on a diving platform.

A total of 42 gold medals will be won at the venue in swimming, diving and synchronised swimming. After the Olympics and Paralympics, a quarter of the venue will be retained for competition with the rest used for leisure purposes.

The centre staged its first test event, the China Open swimming competition, on Thursday, 31 January, three days after opening, although swimming superpowers Australia and the United States only sent observation delegations.

The second showpiece venue of the Games, the neighbouring 91,000-seater National Stadium, or "Bird's Nest", is scheduled for completion by the end of March.

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