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Two gold medals for the Bird's Nest in Beijing

24th July 2009

Almost one year after the event, medals are still being awarded for the Beijing Games. Three of its state-of-the-art venues have been awarded two gold medals and a bronze medal, respectively, at the 2009 IOC/IAKS Awards (IAKS: International Association for Sport and Leisure Facilities), as well as two International Paralympic Committee (IPC)/IAKS Distinctions. And the big winner is the Olympic stadium in Beijing, better known worldwide as the “Bird’s Nest”, which took the  gold medal in the “Stadia” category and the IPC/IAKS Distinction for Accessibility for its outstanding facilities for athletes and spectators with a disability. The National Aquatics Centre, also known as the Water Cube, took the other gold, while the Beijing Olympic Green Tennis Centre was given bronze.

Creating a lasting environmental legacy

Architecture contributes to the success of the Olympic Games and, by extension, to the creation of a sustainable sporting, city and cultural legacy which benefits the community, region, host country and city, and, ideally, other countries. A report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) entitled “Beijing 2008 Olympic Games – Final Environmental Assessment” concludes that the Beijing Games marked a step forward in terms of eco-friendly mass-spectator sporting events. The Beijing Games significantly raised the bar of incorporating sustainability in planning, design and construction principles for Olympic venues.  In close partnership with UNEP, Beijing’s Green Olympics Commitment was achieved through its action for environmental technologies, policies, ozone layer protection, and the promotion of environmental education and awareness, among others. The UNEP report also said the Olympic Games accelerated the introduction of energy-efficient infrastructure in Beijing, and the Games’ showcasing of best practices in clean energy and energy efficiency “provided a basis for the organisers of other mass events to learn from”.

Sport, a source of inspiration for architecture

Beside the competition itself and the achievements of the athletes, sport can also be home to human ingenuity and creativity. There are great examples of Olympic venues that demonstrate how sport can inspire architects to create fascinating constructions, where technical innovation meets creative imagination. Indeed, sports facilities are no longer just landmarks in a city but have also become historic places, real works of art, that one can visit and whose names resonate worldwide thanks to the genius of the architect and engineers behind them. In Beijing, a conscious choice was made to choose spectacular designs that would undoubtedly become international architecture icons, such as the Bird’s Nest and the National Aquatics Centre.

Record number of entries

The IOC/IAKS Award is the only international architecture competition for sports and leisure activities. After 20 years of existence, in 2009 this competition set a new participation record, with 117 teams of operators and designers from 26 countries. This reflects the increasing awareness of how quality sports facilities can be constructed and served as the best catalyst to regenerate and develop sport and sports-related leisure activities in the world. It also highlights the importance of sports and leisure facilities for human enjoyment, health and education, and reiterates that the best sports facilities should be made available in the sports world. For the IPC/IAKS Distinction, 54 entries were received - also a new all-time high. The international jury included, beside IAKS representatives, architects, engineers, landscape designers and sports scientists, including IOC member Ching-Kuo Wu, an architect by training.

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