National Speed Skating Oval

Beijing, China

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Populous was selected to design the prestigious National Speed Skating Oval (NSSO, also know as the ‘Ice Ribbon’) in Beijing, following a rigorous worldwide design competition. It is the city’s new iconic venue for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. This win consolidated and recognized Populous’ unparalleled Olympic experience, and sees the firm involved in their 12th Olympic Games, both summer and winter. This history, coupled with Populous’ globally recognized innovation in sports facility design, has set the stage for a most effective and inspiring state-of-the-art speed skating venue for Beijing’s Winter Olympic Games.

CHALLENGE: Our role in the competition process involved the management of a multitude of stakeholders across five countries and three offices to complete the full schematic design for the ‘Ice Ribbon’ in just 12 weeks. The façade was forged through several concepts and many iterations to reflect the inspiring nature of speed skating.

66 firms took part in the competition including a large number of international firms.

INNOVATION: Populous’ successful design the ‘Ice Ribbon’ presents a distinctive façade that celebrates the elegance, precision, pace and dynamism of speed skating. The design facilitates an intense arena atmosphere, where every move and every sound from skates on ice will be seen and heard by all at the Oval. The venue’s architectural and place-making credentials are appropriate to the architectural iconography of Olympic Park, complementing with the majestic steel structure of the ‘Bird’s Nest’ and the dynamic membrane structure of the ‘Water Cube.’

Twenty-two separate light strands (or ribbons) flow up and around the Oval, cocooning it to a height of some 33.8 meters. This exterior shell secures a high level of visitor comfort and amenity, in keeping with it being the world leading speed skating venue for competitors and spectators. At night, the facade creates an exciting spectacle, with each of the strands becoming dynamic ribbons of light, able to change to an endless array of lighting programs.

The site is approximately 17 hectares and will include a 400-meter racing track with an ice surface to world’s best standard. It will accommodate 12,000 spectators (8000 permanent and 4000 temporary seats) positioned close to the action. There will also be two additional underground levels for venue servicing and parking.

IMPACT: In the lead up to — and during — the Games, the NSSO ‘Ice Ribbon’ will be responsible for speed skating events. After the Games, the design’s legacy allows the transformation of the facility to serve its long-term purpose, catering for public skating and ice sports as well as speed skating, supporting China’s ongoing involvement and excellence in winter sports while becoming the landmark that delivered a new winter-life experience for the community.

2022 - 2023
China Construction Industry Association Luban Prize (National Prime Quality Project)
Architizer A+Awards Finalist Stadium and Arenas
Project Team
Connect with the designers

Amir Farokhian

Keith Hudson

Gavin Robotham

Paul Foskett