One of the most unusual buildings set to play a starring role in the upcoming summer Olympics is China's National Aquatics Center, better known as the "Water Cube." VOA's Stephanie Ho reports the venue has Chinese officials applauding the building's futuristic design.

The Water Cube is instantly recognizable.  It is a large rectangular box, covered with a transparent cushiony material that looks like it is made up of soap bubbles. The unusual design saves energy by acting like a greenhouse.

Jeff Ruffolo, an American and a senior expert with the Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee, says being inside is truly fantastic.

"It's like you're frozen, shrunk down into the size of a molecule and you're inside a frozen piece of ice. There's nothing like it anywhere in the world," he said.

In a ceremony at the end of January, the water cube was officially handed over to Li Aiqing, chairman of the Beijing State-Owned Assets Management Company.

Li told journalists he is very excited and proud because the venue includes the largest swimming pool in the world.  The 17,000-seat Water Cube will host Olympic swimming and diving events.

Linda Wang is a 20-year-old Tsinghua University Chinese literature major. She is among thousands of Chinese students who will serve as volunteers during the games.

She says, "And I'm in one of the gates. And anyone who has a blue card, I will let her in. And anyone who doesn't have it, I will forbid them."

The Water Cube is the first of two iconic Olympic venues to be completed and opened. Its well-known neighbor is the National Stadium, better known as the "Bird's Nest" because of its striking design.