Thomas White Global Investing
China Stamp
August 15, 2008
A Postcard from China
China: Beijing Emerges from Its Bird’s Nest

Beijing Emerges from its Bird’s Nest Watching the Bird’s Nest like a hawk, about 300,000 surveillance cameras and sited anti-aircraft missiles have been installed in the area surrounding the stadium. This heightened security also includes hundreds of security force personnel who will vigilantly guard the Nest at all times.

Like a young bird peeking out from its shell, Beijing is about to emerge onto the world stage with its Olympics mega event. The Beijing National Stadium, nicknamed the Bird’s Nest, is a fitting tribute for this debut. With a unique twig-like grid formation and steel ribbons crisscrossing to form a cozy nest, this venue will host the main track and field events of the Olympics. Sporting a price tag of $500 million, the Bird’s Nest was designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron along with Beijing artist Ai Weiwei. Described by its designers as an “architectural forest”, the stadium measures 330 meters long by 220 meters wide, and 69.2 meters tall. The entire edifice, whose construction began in 2003, weighs in at 45,000 tons. This 91,000-seat bowl will play host to the opening and closing ceremonies of this summer’s international sporting event, and is the centerpiece of Beijing’s total of 37 Olympic venues. After the Olympics, the stadium will be the setting for sporting and cultural events as well as rock concerts. Covering 50.4 acres in the Beijing Olympic Green, the hollowed complex allows in maximum sunshine making the spectators feel they are in a forest.

But letting in the sunshine also lets in the rain. The stadium’s main feature is also its drawback – the lack of a roof. A 41% chance of rain is being predicted for the opening ceremony clouding the happy smiles so far. The roof canopy was scrapped to save 10% of building costs and 15,000 tons of weight.

The Beijing skyline was once pierced with the pagodas of ancient temples and palaces. But buildings like the Bird’s Nest are changing the scene, creating a futuristic and surreal glint in the landscape. Scores of traditional homes with courtyards nestled in the hutongs have been razed to make way for posh high rises. With the Olympics on the horizon, the construction turned into a round-the-clock frenzy, with as many as 7,000 construction workers on site at one time. As Beijing has sought to convey a plush and cosmopolitan image, 6,037 families have been displaced by preparations for the Olympics, according to China’s foreign ministry. The Geneva-based Center on Housing Rights and Evictions calculates that up to 1.5 million people may be moved by this August.

Progress and globalization are a powerful potion and China is awaiting a sizzling summer with the distinction of hosting the most expensive Olympics in history. With a price tag of $43 billion, the Olympics is the pride of Beijing. The Bird’s Nest now awaits its visitors.

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