For Beijing’s stressed-out elite, an Olympic site has become a watery haven.
Built for the 2008 Olympics, Beijing’s National Aquatics Centre resembles an alien construction more than a swimming pool: a huge rectangle coated with transparent, cell-like bubbles that makes Zaha Hadid’s beautiful edifice in east London look downright mundane.
The “water cube,” as it was known, went silently into neglect as an urban pool once the dramas of that fortnight in August were over – when world records fell like dominoes and Michael Phelps won eight gold medals, more than any Olympian before him. The government intervened two years later.
The building’s southern half has now been transformed into a fantasy indoor water park, with the goal of generating revenue by attracting locals and tourists to the frequently deserted Olympic site.
It’s a maze of neon plastic slides, tunnels, water jets, and pools on the inside, as well as sophisticated, surreal underwater decor. Many Chinese visitors will never have seen a lazy river, a 40-foot freefall drop within a plastic tube, or a wave pool designed to simulate the ocean.
The “Happy Magic Water Cube, Beijing Water Cube Water Park” (to give it its full name) can get rather crowded at times, with children yelling with joy in their matching orange life jackets.
According to government statistics, it is the city’s second most visited tourist attraction, after the Great Wall. The expensive entrance price deters all except Beijing’s privileged kids, so it’s usually quiet. As the former site of the 2008 Olympics water sport competitions, the Happy Magic Watercube Park has now been given new use in the form of a water playground. There is a wave pool, a bunch of slides at different intensities, and never-ending entertainment. This is definitely a place kids and adults will have a blast! Get it on that bucket list.
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