Beijing Bird's Nest reinvented as winter wonderland

Wed Dec 16, 2009 8:43am EST
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By Kitty Bu

BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - China's iconic national stadium, rarely used since the Olympics, has found a new purpose: hosting a snowy winter wonderland in the heart of Beijing.

Mounds of artificial snow and mini ski slopes await the scores of local visitors and tourists who are expected to flock to the snow festival's opening this Saturday to reacquaint themselves with the Bird's Nest which dazzled millions during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, but which has since largely lacked the roar of the crowd.

"We believe that we will be able to provide a fun, interesting, snow world for this Christmas," the stadium's media spokesperson, Xiang Jun, told Reuters.

The symbol of the Beijing Olympics, the Bird's Nest has secured its place among more ancient Chinese tourist attractions such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.

However, managers of the $500 million stadium have struggled to find a role for this landmark arena which many fear could become the mother of all white elephants.

With Beijing's average winter temperatures hovering at just above zero degrees Celsius (32 F), the number of visitors to the Bird's Nest has recently dropped by a further 30 percent compared to peak season, Xiang said.

He is hoping to capitalize on the Chinese fad for Christmas, when city dwellers flock to bars and nightclubs, restaurants offer special discounts, and salesmen wear Santa hats.

"We have prepared some special activities for Christmas. The Bird's Nest will stay open late on Christmas Eve. We will advertise and promote our activities," Xiang said.   Continued...

<p>Workers shovel artificial snow in front of an artificial mountain inside China's iconic national stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, in Beijing December 16, 2009. REUTERS/David Gray</p>