8 Years On: Beijing’s Olympic Buildings

News and Travel Editor

As Brazil welcomes the world to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics, many other countries will look back fondly to the year that their country took world centre stage and hosted the Olympic games. Along with London, Athens and Sydney, Beijing is amongst the most recent predecessors; in 2008 Beijing shocked and impressed audiences across the globe with expensive and breathtaking structures and an unforgettable opening ceremony. Beijing 2008 had firmly planted China back on the map.Each city that holds the games must, of course, be able to prove that it has adequate venues and facilities to house thousands of athletes and spectators, but what becomes of the iconic Olympic buildings after the games leave town? Often costing thousands or millions of pounds in upkeep each year, these buildings often pose a challenge for governments across the globe.

Sydney’s Olympic Park still hosts a number of sporting events as well as having undergone a series of developments that have led to it becoming its own suburb. The local government has, however, been criticised for not constructing a sufficient plan for the park post-Olympics; the suburb has largely failed to attract businesses and often remains deserted unless a sports event is taking place, even after £1.34 billion worth of investments.

Stadium Australia. Photo by Adam J.W.C.

Many of the venues in London are still regularly used following the 2012 Olympics; the Olympic Stadium has undergone various transformations and is now West Ham United’s training stadium as well as host to a flowing influx of concerts and events. London Aquatics Centre and other sports facilities are now open to the public and the velodrome now belongs to Lee Valley VeloPark, which caters for cyclists of all types and abilities.

It is a very different sight from the derelict and abandoned Olympic stadiums and courts built for the 2004 Olympic games in Athens. Most of the overgrown and forgotten buildings are completely deserted, serving as an Olympic ghost town.

Four years later, it was China’s turn to host its first ever Olympic games. Beijing’s Olympic Park is a must-see on any tourist’s agenda, with millions of visitors flocking to the site each year. Many of the Olympic facilities remain well kept and alive; Beijing National Stadium, also known as the iconic “Bird’s Nest”, mainly relies on substantial amounts of tourists to cover the costs of the $9 million yearly upkeep costs.

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The iconic ‘Bird’s Nest’ Stadium

Though the stadium has an 80,000 capacity and poses as one of Beijing’s most iconic modern buildings, it has still failed to attract the vast numbers of concerts and events that its planners had predicted. However, it does host the occasional football game, such as the Italian Supercup in 2011 and 2012. (Curious about how the giant steel structure gets cleaned? Have a look at this)

Across the road from the Birds Nest lies the aquatics centre, otherwise known as the Water Cube, now a waterpark with slides and attractions open to the public.

Beijing’s Water Cube. Photo by Li Yong.

Fewer foreigners make the one subway stop north of the stadium where the well tended Olympic forest lies; a heavenly stretch of lush greenery and lakes planted in a tightly packed concrete city. The Olympic forest remains open to the public and is a pillar of Beijing society, providing a place for children and adults alike to exercise along scenic jogging and cycling paths.

Beijing will also, of course, be hosting the Winter 2022 Olympics, when the stadium and Water Cube be again put to good use; another chance for China to demonstrate its role as a key performer on the world stage.


Are you excited for Rio 2016? What’s your favourite event? If you’ve been loving the gymnastics, check out our interview with China’s Gold Medal Gymnast,  Zhang Chenglong.


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