China's National Stadium, or the Bird's Nest, as it has become known, is the world's largest
steel structure and the most complex stadium ever constructed. Its
design had to be inspiring and be able to withstand an earthquake.
So 'light weight' was combined with strength in 110 000 tons of a
new grade of steel, the purest ever developed in China, including
36km of steel struts. It is "one of the key engineering marvels in
the world today."
China's National Stadium is located on the Olympic Green about 8km from the center of
Beijing. As a testament to its significance, it's on the city's
north-south axis, which also includes the Forbidden City, Tiananmen
Square and the Temple of Heaven, travelling south. It was a
demonstration to the world that China is a world class economic
The Bird's Nest was the main venue of the 2008 Beijing Olympic
Games, when it had a capacity of 91 000 spectators. The stadium now
has a capacity of 80 000, as temporary Olympic seating has been
removed. It was designed by Swiss Architects, Herzog & de
Meuron, and Chinese Architect, Li Xinggang, and is shaped like a
cradle, but its interlocking steel members, like a latticework of
twigs, make the name Bird's Nest an obvious alias.
The design came from the idea of a single thread wrapped round a
ball. Layers of logical geometry give the appearance of randomness
and the organic shape of the structure.
The Bird's Nest hosted the opening ceremony, athletic events, the
football final and the closing ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic
Games, which took place from August 8 to August 24, 2008. It was
also the venue for the 2008 Beijing Paralympics athletics and
ceremonies from September 6 to September 17, 2008. The stadium will
continue to host international and domestic sporting events, such
as football matches.
Piles 37m below ground level were required to bear the weight and
horizontal forces generated by the structure. Grouting techniques
were used to strengthen the ground around the piles, pumping
concrete down through the pile cores, making the piles like giant
bulbs of reinforced concrete in the ground.
Then the functional inner body of the stadium was put in place.
14700 precast concrete slabs all formed within 2mm tolerance to
hold the seating were slotted together. Then followed the 24 anchor
points for the columns, 100 tons each. Each column is 1000 tons
with no lifting equipment able to lift it.
An international steel shortage meant that the idea for a
retractable roof was scrapped, saving 50M USD. A new grade of steel
had to be produced to withstand pulling forces within the structure
without the addition of extra columns, which would block
spectators' views. The purest steel ever developed in China allowed
the designers of the Bird's Nest to combine light weight with
strength to provide maximum resistance to seismic forces.
Because of Beijing's location, the stadium had be able to withstand
an earthquake. Its low sensitivity to welding, however, meant that
welders had to be specially trained to join the interlocking steel
sections together, with some welds having to be repeated a number
of times to achieved specification strength.
The 11200 ton roof was supported by a temporary columns until the
moment of truth when the jacks were released and the web of the
Bird's Nest held its own weight.
It was a demonstration to the world that China is a world class
Lots of pentagrams discernable in the interlocking fabric of the
structure, like the stars of the Chinese flag.
There is a revealing series of 5 Youtube video clips that cover the
construction of this amazing structure.
Construction of the National Stadium began on December 24, 2003,
and was completed in March, 2008. The total cost was more than 423
million dollars, a tiny fraction of the 40 billion USD spent on
Beijing in preparation for the Olympics.
The Bird's Nest is a colossal saddle-shaped elliptical steel
structure with 24 truss-formed supporting columns. It is 333 meters
long from north to south, 294 meters wide from east to west, the
highest point is 68.5 meters and the lowest point is 42.8 meters.
It is the largest world's steel structure. It is covered with a
polymer membrane, which is both rain-proof, and translucent
(allowing sunlight for the grass). This special membrane enhances
lighting within the stadium by diminishing glare and shadowing,
giving a more favorable competition environment.
One Day Beijing Olympic Stadium Tour from $78 p/p (based on travel party of 2-3 persons)