Field of dreams: MSU helps build portable Olympics turf in China
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Chinese officials have tapped Michigan State University’s renowned turf scientists to help build a portable athletic field for this summer’s Olympics in Beijing National Stadium.
The MSU team, led by professor John “Trey” Rogers, gained prominence by first introducing portable turf at the 1994 World Cup at the Pontiac Silverdome – the first time World Cup soccer was played indoors.
The current, months-long project has involved building and managing more than 5,500 modules of Kentucky bluegrass about five miles away from the new Beijing stadium. It's essentially the same process used to replace Spartan Stadium's artificial turf with grass in 2002.
Immediately after the Aug. 8 opening ceremonies, the modules – each weighing 1,100 pounds – will be moved into the stadium. MSU is acting as a consultant on the project.
The turf will support the main track and field competitions and the gold medal soccer match, as well as future events at the 91,000-seat stadium, which is also known as the Bird’s Nest.
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Rogers, an international expert on athletic turf and golf courses, said the knowledge gleaned from this and other major MSU turfgrass projects can benefit athletes all over the world. “It has a wide range of applications,” he said. “If they were going to do a renovation at a high school field in Lansing, Mich., for example, we would use these same principles.”
Joining Rogers on the team are James Crum, fellow professor of turfgrass management; Alec Kowalewski, a doctoral student; and Weijun Zhao, director of MSU’s Office of China Programs.
Kowalewski has been in China since May to manage the turf-growing process. He and Rogers will help install the field after the opening ceremonies.
Zhao said his role in the project was that of a “bridge” – connecting China’s need for turfgrass technology with MSU’s cutting-edge team of scientists.
“To host the Olympic Games in China is a 100-year-long dream of the Chinese people and as a native of China, I wished to do something for this great event,” Zhao said. “To MSU, this is the best chance to showcase its expertise and talent in front of millions of Chinese people.”