By Josh James in Beijing

Thomas Vermaelen is looking forward to returning to the 'Bird's Nest' stadium on Friday - this time in a playing capacity.

The famous 80,000-capacity arena in Beijing will play host to Arsenal's pre-season friendly with Manchester City this Friday, and the Belgian defender has already visited the National Stadium, but only in a spectating role.

Vermaelen, who is captaining the side during this tour of Asia, said: "Four years ago I was in China for the Olympics with the Belgian national team. We travelled all over the country, not just Beijing, and it was the first time I had been to the country. We had a great tournament too and almost won a medal.

"We didn't play in the Bird's Nest, but I went to the stadium to watch the athletics, and it was a great experience. It looks fantastic, and I think the atmosphere will be great as well."

Arsenal face City there at 1pm (UK time) on Friday - the same day that the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony will take place in London.

Vermaelen won't be competing at the Games this year of course, but he does plan to watch the action.

"I like the table tennis, I like to play it a bit myself, and I know the Chinese are very good at it, so I'll try to watch that. Also the 100 metres sprint – everyone is looking forward to watching [Usain] Bolt. And of course I'll watch the football tournament too."

Watch a live video stream of Arsenal v Manchester City on Arsenal Player this Friday.

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 25 Jul 2012