Beijing’s Olympic Ruins

Four years later, most of the sports facilities built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics have remained untouched since the extravagant closing ceremony. The Water Cube, the main stadium for aquatics during the Olympics, is now suffering an annual loss of $1 million, a legacy of government neglect. From Mark Byrnes at The Atlantic Cities:

While being awarded the 2008 Summer Olympics allowed Beijing to construct new architectural icons and receive international accolades, its current reality is a collection of unused sports facilities with few if any plans for reuse.

Beijing Olympics officials approached the 2008 Games as an opportunity to host the world’s biggest sporting event, not to create infrastructure of permanent importance. Now Beijing is left with a post-Olympics landscape that better suits the taste of ruin porn aficionados than urban development officials. Its a story that should serve as a warning not only to London but future cities that have their sights set on investing billions into new infrastructure for a two-and-a-half week event.

For NPR, Louisa Lim visits the two iconic Olympics structures, the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube, and talks with Beijing residents about them (Listen here):

“I’m proud that China has this great architecture, that it can build such a great world monument. How can you not feel proud?” he asks, beaming from ear to ear.

The official audio tour describes the stadium in these symbolic terms: “The Bird’s Nest, as a symbol of the rise of the Chinese nation, will follow the nation’s footsteps in its rise to glory.”

But the Chinese artist who helped conceive of the Bird’s Nest now says he regrets having designed such a monument to China’s Communist leaders.

Ai Weiwei designed the stadium, together with Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. But Ai has never set foot inside the finished building.

Earlier this year, Globe and Mail posted a slideshow of photos of Beijing’s abandoned Olympic structures.

Read more about 2008 Beijing Olympics and the Olympics construction via CDT.