Just five months after the Beijing Olympics,the Birds Nest is a cavernous museum searching for a new purpose. The iconic National Stadium drew acclaim for its daring design,an engineering marvel that borders on sculpture. Now it draws about 10,000 tourists a day mostly Chinese who pay 50 yuan (about $7) to walk on the stadium floor,then climb through the expensive seats to a souvenir shop hawking pricey mementos recalling Zhang Yimous dazzling opening ceremony or the three world records set by Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.
A symbol of Chinas rising power and confidence,the stadium may never recoup the $450 million the government spent to build it. It has yet to draw big-ticket events,has no permanent tenant,and only one date has been announced for this year. Puccinis opera Turandot, directed by Zhang.
This is a long-term worry for the company that manages the stadium. Beijing CITIC Consortium Stadium Operations Co Ltd says the stadium can generate annual revenue of $30 million,even while acknowledging that estimate is optimistic.
The stadium didnt come cheaply,and neither do the official souvenirs. A metallic replica of the stadium goes for 4,800 yuan (about $700),a replica torch kit is 2,900 (about $430) and baseball caps are a more affordable 98 ($14). Of course,street vendors outside the stadium offer counterfeit merchandise at one-tenth the price.
The management company said that bids for lucrative naming rights potentially a large revenue producer were not being taken,because of the iconic nature of the stadium.
In other countries,the Birds Nest might be revealed as a white elephant expensive,and with little commercial value. But in China,the government and state-controlled media are unlikely to advertise the fact and citizens will never know the real cost.