Changing China

Giant on the move

Snowboarding the Bird’s Nest

December 23, 2009

Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest” stadium, the tangled steel structure that starred as the focal point of the 2008 Summer Games, has been dressed up for winter in hopes of drawing post-Olympics visitors — and their cash.

Transformed into a winter-themed sports park, the stadium — which in its glory days packed some 80,000 cheering spectators into row after row of seats — now includes snowboard and ski slopes inside the inner ring, as well as a short toboggan tube, all covered in man-made snow.

But judging by the turnout on the opening weekend, when media representatives outnumbered paying visitors, this white Christmas wonderland faces a tough challenge to escape the stadium’s legacy as a big, white elephant.CHINA-BIRDSNEST/SNOW

The 180 yuan entrance fee (about $26) is one barrier to making the snowy playground a financial success. A young mother who brought her son said she reluctantly paid the fee only because the stadium has a special status among China’s famous cultural sites. Other visitors said they were taken aback by extra fees charged inside the venue.

Families got into the spirit, posing in front of giant Christmas-themed snow sculptures and were treated to a variety show featuring the standard Chinese lineup of Kung-Fu displays and acrobatic routines. Even so, set against a backdrop of fake snowy mountain peaks cradled by the stadium’s empty seats and steel girders, the show was a dull reminder of the venue’s spectacular Olympics opening and closing ceremonies that dazzled the world in 2008.

-Reporting by Beijing newsroom

Photo credit: The Bird’s Nest stadium, which has been rarely used since the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, has had machines making artificial snow to cover the infield to create the winter playground at a cost of around 50 million yuan (US$7 million) in an effort to attract more tourists during the quieter Christmas and Chinese New Year season. REUTERS/Loic Hofstedt

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