The Beijing Olympics are set to be the biggest Olympic Games ever, with Australians like Grant Hackett chasing a record haul of gold medals and mobile phones are set to provide a whole new way to take in the spectacle.
thylene Tetrafluoroethylene is not a name that rolls off the tongue. But once the Beijing Olympics kick off on August 8th, the name of this complicated chemical, a relative of the Teflon that coats non-stick frying pans, will become very familiar to Australians.
That’s because the super-light, self-cleaning material has been used to form more than 300 giant bubbles that form the walls and ceilings of the Beijing National Aquatics centre, an extraordinary building known as the “Water Cube” that will house the Olympic swimming events that so delight Australians. The Cube is also worth watching because when the races have been swum and won, it is expected that the bubbles will be illuminated from within, and may also have light and video images projected onto them from outside. The result is said to resemble a massive multicoloured ice cube.
The ‘Water Cub’ in Beijing
The Water Cube’s neighbour, the new national stadium known as “The Bird’s Nest” is even more spectacular, even if it lacks the creative chemistry. Yet the Nest still dazzles with its extraordinary geometry and mind-boggling facts about its construction, such as the 110,000 tonnes of steel wrapped into its exotic, interlaced frame.
The Bird’s Nest and Water Cube are just two of what seems like hundreds of construction projects around Beijing, fuelled by both the games and China’s extra ordinary expansion.
On almost every corner of downtown Beijing you’ll find Western boutiques, with hordes of well-dressed retail workers making sure the glass cabinetry shines like the sun. Of course not all of the city is dazzling; for every dazzling new 40 storey glass skyscraper, you’ll also find a very ordinary looking 40 storey apartment building to house the residents of this city of 17 million.
Anything to do with the Olympics, however, is bound to dazzle. Olympic Green, home to most of the Olympic venues, includes a massive new park, the main press centre and international broadcast centre, and is within walking distance of the vast bulk of athletes’ and media accommodation.
Like everything else to do with the games, it is designed to impress. And no-one will be more impressed than athletes who, when they touch down in the Chinese capital, will be whisked through a new airport terminal and transported to the Olympic village on a shiny new train line, both of which opened in March.
But don’t let that date, just a few months before the games’ August opening, make you think that Beijing will only just fall over the finish line for the games. As early as 2006, Olympic officials were making it plain that Beijing was the only Olympic host city they had ever had to ask to slow down its preparations.