Former Beijing Olympic venues sit empty, lose cash
Published Sunday, July 8, 2012 6:21PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, July 9, 2012 7:27AM EDT
The lavish buildings erected for the Beijing Olympics dazzled during the 2008 Games. But four years later, many sit empty while losing millions of dollars each year.
As the world prepares to shift its focus to London for the 2012 Olympics, CTVNews found that what remains of the last Summer Games is a far cry from the spectacle of four years ago.
The Bird’s Nest -- the name given to the Games’ main stadium -- remains nearly empty on most days. While tourists and vendors selling souvenirs can be found at the site, sports are rarely played in the $423 million facility with no team home team to draw a crowd. Today the iconic showpiece is occasionally used for trade shows. However, Beijing officials claim the stadium sees 20,000 visitors daily.
One woman told CTV News that she has only seen the 80,000-person venue on television.
“I guess it’s impressive,” she said.
The Water Cube served as the Game’s National Aquatic Centre, where at the time swimmers broke 25 world records. Following the 2008 Olympics, the Water Cube, built in the shape of a blue rectangular box, was remade into a concert hall and it later reopened as a family water park. The venue continues to lose $2 million a year.
An estimated $44 billion was funneled into the Chinese capital to transform one of the most populated cities in the world.
One man said the international event was good for Beijing’s image. “It showed we are open,” he said.
Like previous Olympics in Athens, Sydney and Montreal that left the hosts with significant debt, it will take an estimated 30 years for Beijing to recoup the money that was spent building the extravagant venues.
While the Beijing Games ran like a well-oiled machine, it still generated controversy.
The Chinese government put a tight lid on free speech, deporting protesters who sought to highlight human right's issues in Tibet and even blocked international media from viewing certain websites.
Onepositive change that lasted well after the Olympic flame was extinguished was Beijing’s environmental awareness.
Concerns over poor air quality had officials closing factories to cut down on pollution. Since then, demands for a greener city have grown.
“The power of the legacy of the Beijing Olympics is the public is not willing to go back to the polluting days,” said Pang Cheung Sze of Greenpeace.
The London Games will kick off with the opening ceremonies on July 27, with an estimated one billion TV viewers expected to tune in.