The stadium was built on Haixinsha Island in the Pearl River.  The seating grandstand faced a boat-shaped park containing lakes, promenades, fountains and masts.  The area closest to the grandstand formed a broad wet/dry stage surrounded by a deep water channel.  The stage area was large enough to hold the 9,000 athletes. A simple system of sluices and pumps allowed the surface to be flooded to a depth of 100mm and quickly drained.

The stage area was separated from the rest of the park by four 85m tall nautical-style masts. Each mast was square-rigged with two 25m tall concertina-folding LED screens. In their down position the screens stored on spars; raised up they formed video screens and surfaces upon which acrobat-artists could perform.

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During the first part of the ceremony the stage was flooded with water. When the first part was complete, the stage was drained in preparation for the Athletes' Parade. The elements of the cauldron were moved into position on the stage and erected in full view of the audience as part of the performance.

The cauldron was formed from four separate legs that were stored out of sight of the audience and rolled on stage by performers. At the same time as the legs were being rolled into position, the flame bowl (which was stored in a chamber below the stage) was raised to stage level. The top ends of the legs were connected to the flame bowl, at the same time the feet of the legs were connected to dogs running in tracks in the stage floor. The dogs were pulled towards the centre of the stage by winches, drawing the feet together and raising the flame bowl into the air. Fully erect the cauldron stood 28m tall.

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