With the development of the knowledge economy, the global competitive landscape of cultural soft power has been formed. As one of the representatives of soft power, sports culture is an important symbol of urban modernisation and implies the heritage of urban development. Suzhou Olympic Sports Center, located within the core area of Suzhou Industrial Park, covers an area of about 360,000 sq metres. This new urban landmark integrates sports, fitness, leisure, entertainment and artistic performance.

Suzhou Olympic Sports Center includes a stadium, training and leisure pool, indoor arena, shopping centre and a wide range of sports facilities for the surrounding residential areas.

Designed by Gerkan, Marg and Partners (gmp), the project was influenced by the garden city status of Suzhou, which has nine historic gardens that have been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. The end result has seen an impressive sports and citizens’ park created, with four large buildings among water features and vast green spaces: the 45,000-capacity stadium with a span of 250-metres, a 3,000-seat aquatics centre, an indoor arena with 13,000 seats and a shopping centre.

The design of the buildings is minimalist in terms of style, with podiums and the facades featuring horizontal lines in light natural stone and aluminium panels. To the south, the park opens out to the Xietang River and, along winding pathways, provides various vistas across waterways, the architecture and overall landscape.

For the first time in China, a single-layer cable network roof construction has been used to cover the large sports buildings, offering bold, sweeping paraboloid shells that rest on V-shaped supports, which can be seen not just in the immediate neighbourhood, but also from further away.

PTFE membrane covers the stadium roof, whereas the roofs of both the indoor arena and aquatics centre is finished with metal sheets that consist of a durable aluminium / magnesium / manganese alloy.

With a hotel, offices and a shopping centre, as well as the three sporting venues, the Suzhou Olympic Sports Center is a popular, lively area – particularly with the park area that includes an array of facilities; football pitches, tennis courts, and other ball sports, all of which can be hired privately.

With such a multifaceted concept, the project has become a template for the design of other sports facilities in China.

The audio at Suzhou Olympic Sports Center’s sporting venues was provided by Bosch sub-brands – Electro-Voice and Dynacord.

The sound reinforcement system includes the following Electro-Voice products: 104 EVH weather-resistant loudspeakers, 70 X2 line array loudspeakers, almost 100 TG7 amplifiers integrated RCM28 modules and EV UW30 underwater loudspeakers. In addition, Dynacord Cobra series loudspeakers provide an excellent audio performance for portable use in three venues of the Olympic Sports Center, while Dynacord VL Series loudspeakers deliver exciting music to all the players in the skating rink.


The single-layer cable membrane structure

Despite the achievement of being the first use in China, the single-layer cable network roof construction also brought significant challenges to the entire sound reinforcement system design at the stadium.

The leader of the Project Design Department of Suzhou Olympic Sports Center mentioned: “Generally speaking, most stadiums adopt the steel framed structure. The special structure used in this project means that we have to use 40 cable heads across the stadium to fasten the membrane.”

Due to this unique design, the catwalk is above the membrane and there are no fixed mounting points for loudspeaker installation, therefore making the installation and maintenance very difficult. Furthermore, the swing range of up and down exceeds 1.5-metres. Those increased the difficulty of whole sound system design.

“After elaborate consideration, Bosch team introduced the installation method of London Bowl. Bosch guys worked with specialised designers to make a mounting point on each tapered end and install a pulley. Then we can use a winding engine to lift the loudspeakers, or take down for inspection and maintenance. By this way, the challenge of installation was finally conquered,” he also added.

“In addition to tackling the hanging technical difficulty, another reason why we choose the single-layer cable membrane structured roof is that we hope to make a breakthrough in the aesthetic appearance of the stadium. EV’s white-coloured EVH weather-resistant loudspeakers perfectly match the cable membrane structure not only on colour but also on overall environment. What’s more, EVH’s audio quality makes sure that every audience at any position can hear clear sound and dynamic performance.”

Gymnasium integrating sports and cultural recreation

As a comprehensive venue, this 13,000-seat gymnasium has been designed to serve multiple purposes since very beginning. The central funnel screen is designed according to the standards of large international events, such as NBA. It can offer superb viewing experience for variety shows and exhibitions. In order to provide both visual and audio enjoyment, 70 EV X2 new-generation line array loudspeakers achieve 360º sound coverage for the floor and audience area. This allows the audiences to enjoy clear, real and exciting sound. During daily use, the audiences on site are regularly impressed by the audio quality delivered by X2.

Natatorium integrating sports and fitness

In addition to standard competition pools and training pools, the natatorium also provides various spa facilities, stores selling water sports supplies, children’s amusement and leisure equipment for local citizens. The owner also chose the white EVH loudspeakers below the roof of the natatorium, which blended into the decoration of the venue in terms of appearance and sound clarity.

“Considering the needs of diving, as well as training and performance of synchronised swimming, we have also selected EV’s UW30 underwater loudspeakers in the swimming pools, so that people under the water could hear the music, as well as the messages through microphone sent by people on shore clearly without additional receivers.” said the leader of the Project Design Department.

Commercial plaza with comprehensive functions

The commercial plaza, which is designed with affiliated functions including shopping, office and hospitality, supports the three sports buildings and adds the leisure entertainment atmosphere to the entire park. The ice rink in the commercial centre is installed with Dynacord VL series two-way full range loudspeakers to cover every corner in a balanced manner and add more fun to the skaters with beautiful music.

All audio and control signals within the sports venue including stadium, gymnasium, natatorium and ice rink are transmitted on the basis of OMNEO protocol. The main digital signal and redundancy digital signal can be the backup to each other. This ensures smooth, stable signal transmission throughout the sports centre.

EV and Dynacord’s total solution on sound reinforcement not only addresses the design and application requirement of the sports centre, but also helps boost the robust development of China’s cultural and sports. The high audio quality at the Suzhou Olympic Sports Center has opened a new chapter of the development of sports venues in China.