Bird's Nest

China's National Stadium, or the Bird's Nest, as it has become known, is the world's largest steel structure and the most complex stadium ever constructed. It is "one of the key engineering marvels in the world today."

As a testament to its significance, it's on the city's north-south axis, which also includes the Forbidden City, Tian’anmen Square and the Temple of Heaven, travelling south. It is on the Olympic Green about 8km from the center of Beijing.

The Design

The Bird’s Nest was designed by Swiss Architects, Herzog & de Meuron, and a Chinese Architect, Li Xinggang. The requirements for its design were that it had to be inspiring and be able to withstand an earthquake.

Bird Nest

In order to make the structure 'light weight' but earthquake-proof, the strength in 110 000 tons of a new grade of steel, the purest ever developed in China, including 36km of steel struts, was combined with an ingenious design.

It is saddle-shaped, but the interlocking steel parts resembling a lattice of twigs, make the name Bird's Nest an obvious alias.

The design came from the idea of a single thread wrapped round a ball. Layers of logical geometry give the appearance of randomness and an organic shape. Multiple pentagrams in the interlocking fabric of the elliptical structure are like the stars of the Chinese flag.

An international steel shortage meant that the idea for a retractable roof was scrapped, saving 50M USD. A new grade of steel had to be produced to withstand pulling forces within the structure without the addition of extra columns, which would have blocked spectators' views.

The structure is covered with a polymer membrane, rain-proof but translucent, allowing sunlight for the grass. This special membrane enhances lighting within the stadium by diminishing glare and shadowing, giving a more favorable competition environment.

The Building of the Bird’s Nest

The inside of Bird's Nest

Construction of the National Stadium began on December 24, 2003, and was completed in March, 2008. The total cost was more than 423 million dollars, a tiny fraction of the 40 billion USD spent on Beijing in preparation for the Olympics.

It is 333 meters long from north to south, 294 meters wide from east to west, and the highest point is 68.5 meters.

Ground Work: Pile foundations had to be dug 37m below ground level to bear the weight and horizontal forces generated by the structure. Then the functional inner body of the stadium was built. 14700 precast concrete slabs, all formed within 2mm tolerance to hold the seating, were slotted together. Each of the 24 supporting columns weighs 1000 tons, no lifting equipment in the world is able to lift it.

Steel Work

Because of Beijing's location, the stadium had to be able to withstand an earthquake. The purest steel ever developed in China allowed the designers to combine light weight with strength to provide maximum resistance to seismic forces.

Welders had to be specially trained to join the interlocking steel sections together due to the low sensitivity to welding of the new type of metal.

The 11200 ton roof was supported by temporary columns until the moment of truth when the jacks were released and the web of the Bird's Nest held its own weight.

Beijing Olympics

The Bird's Nest was the main venue of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, when it had a capacity of 91,000 spectators. The stadium now has a capacity of 80,000, after temporary seating was removed.

The Bird's Nest hosted the opening ceremony, athletic events, the football final and the closing ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, which took place from August 8 to August 24, 2008.

It was also the venue for the 2008 Beijing Paralympics athletics and ceremonies from September 6 to September 17, 2008. The stadium will continue to host international and domestic sporting events, such as football matches.


There is a revealing series of five Youtube video clips that cover the construction of this amazing structure.

Go on an excursion with China Highlights: One Day Beijing Olympic Stadium Tour from $78 p/p (based on travel party of 2-3 persons)

Questions and Answers About Bird's Nest

sugiri 2013-03-03
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HI All,We are planning to travel between 25-29 April 2013. Can you please advise what day is the birdnest''s lights will be lit?I heard that when lights are lit; this is the best time to visit; but i heard not every night the lights will be on.
Dear Ugiri, The lights are lit every night till around 21:00pm. You will see the beautiful scenery when you get there. Lussie Lu replied on 2013-03-04
HAYATIMAH 2012-08-14
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Dear Mr. Gupta, Thank you for your inquiry. The Ice Cube and the Bird Nest are in the same place—Olympic Park. I assumed that you will start in Dengshikou Street- the central business street in Beijing: 1. Take Metro Line 5 (Tongtianyuanbei Direction/通天苑北方向) at Dengshikou station(灯市口), and get off at Huixin West Street South station(惠新西街南口). 2. Take Metro Line 10 (Bagou Direction/巴沟方向) and get off at Beitucheng station(北土城站). 3. Take Metro Line 3 (Huilongguan East Street Direction/回龙观东大街方向) and get off at Olympic Park station(奥林匹克公园). The whole tour will take about 50 minutes. If you take a taxi, it will cost about CNY30 and 20 minuets. Doris Huang replied on 2012-08-15
Dear Mr. Gupta, Thank you for your inquiry. Yes you can go to the summer palace by my self without follow any tour. I assumed that you will start in Dengshikou Street- the central business street in Beijing: 1. Take Metro Line 5 (Tongtianyuanbei Direction/通天苑北方向) at Dengshikou station(灯市口), and get off at Haidian Huangzhuang station(海淀黄庄). 2. Take Metro Line 10 (Bagou Direction/巴沟方向) and get off at Haidian Huangzhuang station(海淀黄庄). 3. Take Metro Line 4 (Anheqiao North Direction/安河桥北方向) and get off at Beigongmen station(北宫门). 4. Go out off the metro station, walk west for about 300, you will find the ticket office of the Summer Palace on your left. The whole tour will take about 1.5 hours. If you take a taxi, it will cost about CNY60 and 50 minuets. Doris Huang replied on 2012-08-15
c k mALHAN 2011-11-12
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It is a great and unique stadium located in Beijing China. Tt has been opened as a great tourist attraction. And also serving as the center of international or domestic sports competition and recreation activities. More Photos: guest replied on 2013-08-02
Currenty there is no official answer. Many people think that phoenix is the national bird of China. Iris Zhong replied on 2011-11-14
regie rico 2011-08-25
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concept of birds nest of china
Bird’s Nest was designed as a container which gives every spectator in every situation inside the building a nice viewing angle. Being simple and elegant, the building is supported by the nets-structure. What’s more important, the Bird’s Nest has broken the feature of traditional architecture: that the appearance of the building is just the structure and it does not need other decoration to create its appearance. Lynn Ye replied on 2011-08-25
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I updated this article on February 12, 2014
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