December 22, 2009

Beijing's Winter Wonderland

As we traveled back and forth to the hospital in Beijing, we often passed the Bird's Nest, the National stadium that hosted the 2008 Olympics. Kanyon would point out the taxi window and say, "football." While that was true once (the stadium hosted an Italian soccer match), what is the Bird's Nest up to now?

The stadium first drew revenue from tourists (like us in May) paying to step inside the stadium just to be a part of history. But those numbers fell from 50,000 visitors per day immediately after the Olympics to a couple of thousand in recent days. The stadium costs some 200,000 RMB ($30,000) per day to operate and those numbers would not cover the cost.

The stadium turned next to other events including a Jackie Chan concert, a Zhang Yimou opera performance, and some famous Formula 1 stars in a rally race. But has found little to keep it in the black. The problem is such that the original operator returned operations to the government after only 12 months of a 30 year contract.

The government's first attempt to create revenue is Beijing largest winter wonderland.

Birds Nest tries snow business1 (December 17, 2009, Shanghai Daily)
China's iconic national stadium, rarely used since the Olympics, has found a new purpose: hosting a snowy winter wonderland in the heart of Beijing. Mounds of artificial snow and mini ski slopes await local visitors and tourists who are expected to flock to the snow festival's opening on Saturday to reacquaint themselves with the Bird's Nest, which dazzled millions during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games but has since largely lacked the roar of the crowd. Creating this snowy wonderland does not come cheap. It will cost the company running the sports ground some 50 million yuan (US$7.3 million) to complete and maintain the transformation. The Huaibei Ski Resort has contributed technicians, and snow machines have been pumping out artificial snow 24 hours a day since December 10.

1 ZGBriefs for December 17, 2009
2 Bird's Nest Snow World Reuters Photo

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