Beijing to build offices, fun park at "Water Cube"

A sign for the upcoming Paralympic Games hangs from a light post in front of the National Aquatics Center, also known as the Water Cube, in Beijing September 2, 2008. REUTERS/David Gray

BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - Beijing’s Olympic swimming venue, the National Aquatic Center or “Water Cube,” will mix white-collar workers with thrill-seekers as part of plans to erect an office building next to a water-themed fun park.

The distinctive bubble-wrapped building has been left largely intact since hosting the swimming, diving and synchronized swimming events at August’s Beijing Games, but developers are due to start major renovations within the next few months, the Beijing News said on Friday.

In addition to 11,000 temporary seats already taken down, developers would rip out part of the 6,000 remaining seats to build offices for the venue’s managers, and rent out some to the public, the paper said.

“Work (on the office building) is forecast to take 10 months, and be finished by the end of the year at the earliest,” the paper paraphrased Wang Chun, a senior official in the Olympic Green Management Committee, as saying.

Developers would build “Beijing’s largest water amusement park” on the south side of the $143 million venue, complete with a fake beach and a wave machine. A “high-class” members-only swimming club would round out the north and west sides, Wang said.

In contrast to other Olympic venues which have remained largely unused, the Water Cube has been a relative hive of commercial activity.

In addition to thousands of day-trippers who have paid to take a glimpse inside the venue, more than 100,000 visitors had seen a special sound and light show there up to the end of November, the People’s Daily said this week.

The 40 million yuan ($6 million) spectacular, involving a Beijing orchestra, water fountains and laser beams, had reaped a tidy profit to date and would continue until February, the paper said, quoting organizers.

The venue’s manager has also launched a promotional “Water Cube wine” tie-up with Kweichow Moutai Co Ltd, a maker of China’s traditional fiery liquor, and has plans for further Water Cube-branded good including swimming trunks, ties and mobile phones, the paper added.

Reporting by Ian Ransom and Liu Zhen; Editing by Nick Macfie and Miral Fahmy