Good venues are crucial to hosting a successful Olympic games. In recent years, host cities have provided a seemingly unlimited palate for architects and planners to create unusual and inspiring structures. Several of the venues at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing became instantly recognizable.
The National Aquatics Center - or Water Cube - is now seen as a popular attraction for children and average swimmers long after the ripples from elite Olympians faded into history.
The swimming venue is centrally located on the Olympic Green with other iconic structures like the National Stadium, known as the Birds Nest.
From the outside, visitors are struck by both the size of the massive square building, and it's unique exterior surface. The concept was developed in Australia and was based on the natural formation of soap bubbles to give the venue a random, organic appearance.
The individual bubbles are formed by constantly inflating sections of plastic film, which appear blue by day. At night, the Water Cube can be illuminated from within using a variety of colors which can be changed across the entire building, or within individual bubbles.
The Olympic venue has now been transformed into the largest indoor water park in Asia. Alan Mahony is the general manager of what is called the Happy Magic Water Park.
"The most unique part about this water park is really the Water Cube building and the structure. As you know, it is an award winning architecture structure, so what we did is we looked at the blue design, the watery design, and we brought that into the water park. So what we gave, the whole purpose behind the design is to give you a feeling that you're underwater once you come into the park," he said.
The centerpiece of the facility during the Beijing Games was the Olympic pool, with a dramatic cluster of diving platforms at one end that tower above an adjacent pool. Advanced technologies were used, including state-of-the-art solar energy to heat the pools and the interior area.
The design turned out to be a perfect place to swim for the daughter of Ms. Yin, an Inner Mongolian Government worker. "I brought my daughter here to play. The park is indoors and the water is heated, so it's not easy for the children to get sick. It also has things to eat and drink inside, so it is more convenient than going to the beach," she said.
The depth and width of the main pool created an ideal environment for speed. U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps set several world records in that pool as he won an unprecedented eight gold medals at a single Olympics. Now, Beijing resident Wang Peng says it is the water slide that is the ideal feature.
"My favorite is this water slide here, as soon as you slide away you drop straight down, so it feels like you are a falling rock, or bungee jumping, or jumping off a building. It's really exciting. As soon as I came out my heart was beating very fast," said Wang Peng.
Not readily apparent to water park visitors are the so-called green features of the facility. All backwash water is conserved by being filtered and returned to the swimming pools, helping to make the building environmentally friendly.