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February 15, 2010
Beijing fills Bird's Nest with slush in attempt to lure
More evidence that Olympic stadiums are hopeless white elephants:
The "Happy Snow and Ice Season" will run all winter at the stadium where Chinese directors staged a stunning opening ceremony for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt set world records. Now slushy mounds of machine-made snow and a single ski slope occupy the grounds.
It's a long way from Olympic grandeur for the Bird's Nest, meant to symbolize China's decades of vast economic growth and status as a new world power.
With a price tag of $450 million, the world's largest steel structure has been called a potential white elephant, a big, expensive building that no longer serves a purpose. Its maintenance costs are $15 million a year.
Since the Olympics ended, the stadium has hosted an opera, an Italian soccer match and a Jackie Chan concert. Stadium management is also wooing Spanish soccer team Real Madrid to come play a game.
Both attendance and reviews of the Happy
Fun Ball Snow and Ice Season have been bad, with visitors complaining that the attractions don't live up to the ads, and about the $26 admission fee with additional charges added once you're inside. Best quote, from a Beijing dad who drove an hour to the stadium with his 12-year-old son to the stadium:
Ma [Tianjun], who drove an hour to get to the park, said he realized too late how expensive it would be. "Once you board the thieves' ship, you can only go forward," he said, using an old Beijing saying.