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Beijing 2008


Right from the Candidature Phase for the 2008 Summer Games, it was planned to construct a multipurpose stadium capable of hosting national and international sporting and cultural events. The stadium would be the centrepiece of the Olympic Park, as part of an extension of the central zone used for the Asian Games in 1990 in the north of the city.

In late 2002, an international competition for the design of the stadium was launched. The winning project was selected in 2003. In 2004, following a cost revaluation, the idea for a retractable roof was abandoned, leading to a 22.3 per cent reduction in the quantity of steel initially envisaged.


The stadium’s enormous, saddle-shaped elliptical structure is composed of exposed criss-crossing steel beams, forming the external envelope. Although the arrangement appears random, this framework, with elements supporting one another, was designed on the basis of a geometric plan. While the original architectural inspiration for the design came from traditional Chinese crackle-glazed pottery and veined scholar stones, the building’s appearance earned it the famous nickname “Bird’s Nest”.

IOC / TOBLER, Hélène

Between the interweaving structure and the inside of the stadium, the designers developed an autonomous “Piranesian”47 concourse space that resembles an artificial forest, with a thicket of supports and beams criss-crossing with platforms and access ramps. This space, which looks out onto the Olympic Park and the city, offers a place for restaurants and shops. The stadium benefits from natural ventilation.

The roof is covered with a transparent ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) membrane, spanning 38,500m2, on the upper part, and a translucent PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) membrane, spanning 53,000m2, on its lower part. This double-layer membrane structure, in addition to being waterproof, allows light to flow into the stadium and improves the acoustics. A geothermal heat pump system absorbs the heat from the soil in winter and stores coolness in summer. A photovoltaic system generates enough power to light the 15,000m2 underground component. In addition, a rainwater collection and purification system is installed underneath the stadium. Water is collected on a 22-hectare surface, with an estimated annual volume of 67,000m3. The building is designed to withstand earthquakes measuring up to 8 on the Richter scale.

It certainly deserves a gold medal for innovation. Kelly Holmes British middle-distance athlete and triple Olympic medallist.

The concept behind the atmospheric night lighting in the stadium was inspired by Chinese lanterns. An abundance of light glows from within the stadium, creating a powerful visual silhouette effect with the external beams.



Events organised in the stadium since the Olympic Games have included the Race of Champions motorsport event in 2009, three editions of the Italian football Super Cup (2009, 2011 and 2012), a meeting on the programme of the IAAF World Challenge four consecutive years (2013 to 2016), the World Championships in Athletics in 2015 and the final of the League of Legends video game World Championship in 2017. In addition, the stadium has hosted concerts and winter sports events, including competitions in the FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The Bird’s Nest has also become a tourist attraction. The Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Olympic Winter Games 2022, which will be held in Beijing, are set to take place in the stadium.



- After being deemed too small by some spectators during test events, the 28.3m2 screen located inside the stadium was replaced with two 66m2 screens.


- “226 – National Stadium”, website of Herzog & de Meuron.
- Beijing 2008: Candidate City, Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Bid Committee, 2001, vol. 2, p. 39.
- “Bird's Nest - An architectural breakthrough”, news, website of Beijing 2008, 28 June 2008.
- “Bird’s Nest Milestones”, website of Beijing 2008.
- Nick Mulvenny, “Heralding the Games”, Olympic Review, no. 66, January-March 2008, p. 37.
- “Newly completed National Stadium welcomes guests”, news, website of Beijing 2008, 28 June 2008.
- Official Report of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing Organising Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, 2010, vol. 2, pp. 17, 264, vol. 3, pp. 30, 36-37, 47.
- “Past events”, website of the National Stadium, Beijing.
- The Arup Journal, The Beijing National Stadium special issue, vol. 1, 2009, pp. 11, 44.
- “Video game warriors do battle before 40’000 fans in China”, The Inquirer / AFP, 5 November 2017.

Name: Also known as the Bird’s Nest
Location: Olympic Green, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China
Status: Built for the Games. In use today.
Designers: Herzog & de Meuron, Arup, China Architectural Design & Research Group, Ai Weiwei
Cost: -
Capacity: 91,000 spectators (80,000 permanent seats and 11,000 temporary seats)
Dimensions: 333m long, 294m wide and 69m high
Additional information: Total surface area of 258,000 m2, 110,000 tonnes of steel, of which 42,000 were for the external structure
Construction: December 2003 to June 2008
Official opening: 28 June 2008
Events during the Games: Athletics (including the start and finish of the two 20km and the 50km race walks and the start of the two marathons); final of the men’s football tournament.
Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

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