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May 27, 2011

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Swimming with the tide

THE Shanghai Oriental Sports Center is a state of the art facility for swimming, diving, gymnastics and other sports. It's ready just in time for the FINA World Championships, which the city will host this summer. Ni Yinbin dives in.

With the approach of the 14th FINA World Championships, the newly built Shanghai Oriental Sports Center has been unveiled and is likely destined to be another big attraction of the city.

If the National Aquatic Center, better known as the Water Cube, gained fame because of the Beijing Olympics, the world championships may do likewise for the sports center in Shanghai.

The center, near the former Expo Site on the east side of the Huangpu River, consists of three stadiums, one administration building and an artificial lake. The whole complex covers nearly 350,000 square meters and is not just for swimming. It can also host various indoor competitions such as ice skating, ice hockey, basketball and gymnastics, according to GMP International GmbH Shanghai Representative Office, a Germany-based architecture firm that designed the complex.

The complex's design was based on a water inspired theme, including waves, a beach and bridges, the designer said.

"We wanted to design a sports complex in accordance with Shanghai's character as well as the swimming event," said Chen Ying, architect director for GMP International. "We want to make sports venues look different, not like ordinary ones that are usually quite similar and solemn."

The artificial lake connects the main stadium, natatorium and outdoor diving pool. Resulting from the round shaped stadiums, a soft flowing undulating shoreline emerges toward the north while in the south the natatorium brings a straight oblong edge to the water. The buildings are connected by bridges.

"We added some elements of the traditional Chinese garden and arch bridges as well as water and sails into the design, making the complex more dynamic and lively - just like the city," Chen told Shanghai Daily.

The main stadium's overall shape is that of a rising wave and the swimming stadium features a sequence of arched shapes, evoking the image of waves washing ashore.

The complex is also reminiscent of sails in the wind.

One of the center's biggest features is the outdoor diving pool. With the stands facing the Huangpu River, the audience will be able to watch the athletes dive while taking in the riverside view of Puxi in the background. This may well be the highlight of the championships.

"We learned a lot when Barcelona hosted the swimming world championships in 2003 and the diving competition was held outdoors. The world was impressed by the beautiful views of the city combined with the graceful dives," Chen said. "We thought this would be great for Shanghai as well."

The exterior of the stadiums feature a lot of glass to allow more natural light indoors.

The natatorium, which features a partly glass roof and walls, can be filled with sunlight when the weather cooperates, but also has a system to ensure it's not too bright inside.

"The light altering system at the natatorium is even better than the one at the Water Cube," Chen said.

The center has an independent 15-story building for the media. During sports events, all press conferences and media services will be coordinated in the Press Center with a total area of 20,058 square meters.

"It's necessary to ensure enough space for the media, which is required by the Shanghai Sports Bureau," Chen said. "Shanghai hasn't built new comprehensive sports venues for years and most of the current stadiums are old and do not have space for the increasing number of media members from around the world."

During the 14th FINA World Championships, from July 16 to 31, swimming, synchronized swimming, water polo, diving and open water competitions will be held at the center, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.

How to get there:

Metro Line 6, 8, Shanghai Oriental Sports Center Station


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