Changing China

Giant on the move

Inside the Bird’s Nest

April 16, 2008

Workers make final preparations at the National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest, in BeijingPicking my way through chaotic traffic, dust and unmade footpaths on my way to the Bird’s Nest stadium this morning, I had a flashback to the Olympic Stadium in Athens four years ago.

The difference was that when I was stumbling through the debris in Greece, it was just a few days before the Games rather than the 114 days that remain before the Opening Ceremony here in China.

Almost lost among the thousands of words written about the torch relay during the International Olympic Committee’s visit to Beijing last week were continual statements of confidence that the athletes were going to experience a top class Games this summer with facilities that few would have seen the like of before.   Flag poles can be seen next to the track at the National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, in Beijing

If the Bird’s Nest is anything to go by, that assessment may not be far off the mark.

Forget the aesthetics of the twisted steel exterior, from the inside it simply looks like it’s going to be a superb arena for the world’s greatest athletes to strut their stuff.

I first really caught the sporting bug when, at a tender age, I first walked into the maelstrom of a stadium packed with thousands of spectators. In my case it was an English football stadium, but friends have spoken of similar formative experiences at baseball, rugby and cricket grounds.

Workers make final preparations at the National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, in BeijingThat feeling of awe and delicious expectation remains with me and I felt a small twinge of it when I first glimpsed the inside of the Bird’s Nest. Packed with 91,000 cheering fans in August, it will be quite a place. 

It was difficult to see too clearly today, though. It was not one of Beijing’s much vaunted “blue sky” days and the smog hung thickly.

There is still much work to be done. 

Pictures by David Gray. Also check out Liu Zhen’s feature.




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