BEIJING.-The "Bird's Nest" National Stadium was finally opened as the International media gained access to the structure for the first time and it will admit the first paying customers on Friday. The venue of the Beijing Olympics held a modest opening as it prepares to host its first official event on Friday and Saturday - a low-key race-walking meet.
The 91,000-capacity stadium, which dominates the Olympic Green in the north of the city, was designed by European architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. The iconic 3.5 billion yuan (about $NZ645 million) arena, which was started in December 2003 and completed 14 weeks behind schedule, will host the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the athletics and soccer finals at the August 8-24 Games.
Its unusual design was created by twisted steel beams that wrap around the exterior to resemble silver twigs binding a nest together. A roof was included in the original stadium design, but was cut out of plans in 2004 as a cost-cutting measure. The stadium is 330 metres long by 220 metres wide, and is 69.2 metres tall. The stadium uses 258,000 square metres of space and has a usable area of 204,000 square metres. It was built with 36 km of unwrapped steel, with a combined weight of 45,000 tonnes. The stadium has some 11,000 square metres of underground rooms with waterproof walls.
In 2002, Government officials engaged architects worldwide in a design competition. Pritzker Prize-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron collaborated with ArupSport and China Architecture Design & Research Group to win the competition. Contemporary Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei, is the Artistic Consultant for design. The ground was broken on Christmas Eve December 2003, and construction started in March 2004, but was halted by the high construction cost in August 2004 and continued again. In January 2008, concerns about construction working conditions arose when it was revealed that at least 10 workers had died during the stadium's construction. Controversy also surrounded the alleged forced evictions of many residents so the construction could go ahead.