Giant on the move
Ice Acropolis launches Olympic year in China’s frozen North
A glistening neon re-creation of an ancient Greek temple now bursts out of the winter darkness on the banks of its frozen Songhua river like a hallucination brought on by temperatures plunging below 15 degrees Celsius.
The kitsch but mesmerizing statues are part of an “ice-lantern” festival that has converted an old trick for luring fish to the hooks of night-fishermen into a more lucrative tool for luring tourists and their cash away from warmer parts of the country.
Each year there is a different theme to the festival, which features dozens of vast scultpures, and this year it was — of course — the Summer Games.
Beside the ice Acropolis – a tribute to original Olympics creator and 2004 host Greece – there is a strange “Olympic tower” soaring in multicoloured splendour tens of metres into the night sky and sculptures of athletes striving for success scattered between plastic trees with neon blossoms.
British monuments get a place because London will hold the next Summer Olympics.
And the sculptures, carved from ice hacked out of the frozen river, aren’t just for staring at.
For as long as you can stand the sub-zero temperatures, you can climb the near life-size Great Wall, speed down a vast ice-slide at the end, take photos with what are touted as arctic foxes, clamber up to the steps of the Parthenon, walk through the bright-pink re-creation of Beijing’s Gate of Heavenly Peace or get closer to the icy Stonehenge than you can to the original.
It’s so popular and, for locals, pricey – tickets go for 150 yuan or around $21 – that there are Russian guards from nearby Siberia at the doors.
“The managers don’t trust Chinese guards. They fear they will let all their family and friends in for free,” said a Chinese tour guide cheerfully.
Emma Graham-Harrison is an Energy Correspondent in the Beijing bureau