The Bird’s Nest (niaochao in Chinese), also known as Beijing National Stadium, is a behemoth structure designed by Swiss architecture firm Herzog and de Meuron, with Chinese artist Ai Weiwei consulting on the project. The design by Li Xinggang of Chinese Architecture Design and Research Group (CADG) was chosen from several submitted bids. The stadium cost USD 423 million dollars to build and currently seats 80,000 people, a 12 percent decrease from the Olympics’ maximum capacity of 91,000.
The Bird’s Nest hosted the opening and closing ceremonies, athletics events, and football final of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics from August 8 to 24, 2008. This is the place where Lionel Messi led the Argentinean football team to victory in the football finals against Nigeria and Jamaican track and field superstar Usain Bolt won three gold medals and set the world record of 19.30s in the 200m sprint. The Bird’s Nest was also the venue for the Paralympics from September 6-17, 2008.
After the Olympics, the Bird’s Nest hosted the opera Turandot and the Supercoppa Italiana (Italian Super Cup) final in 2009. Other events include the Race of Champions, a friendly football match between Premier League team and Birmingham City, the annual Bird’s Nest Snow Festival, and the Supercoppa Italiana 2011. Upcoming events include Arsenal FC and Manchester City FC in the China Cup this Friday and the 2015 World Championships in Athletics.
A shopping mall and hotel were announced in January 2009, a plan that is slated to take 3-5 years to complete. The Bird’s Nest was supposed to be the home base for Beijing Guo’an, but the football team backed out after citing the embarrassment of only being able to draw a 10,000-person crowd for a venue that can seat 80,000. This, coupled with the fact that the stadium doesn’t include a retractable roof (which was taken out of the original plan so that that the building would look more “bird nest like”), are major reasons why this large outdoor venue has trouble drawing in events and crowds.
Currently, the steel stadium is suffering from serious corrosion and rust damage. According to a report done by the European Venue Management Institute EVMI), the 45,000 tons of steel built into the Bird’s Nest are in need of serious attention.
As early as May of 2009, EVMI was informed that a team of European-based structural engineers were called onsite. Without a regular and frequent calendar of events, it’s unlikely that the Bird’s Nest will make enough revenue required for the maintenance of such a complicated structure.
According to welding expert Ed Craig, there are many flaws in the Bird’s Nest’s welding processes and procedures. The materials used were inappropriate, welding techniques were improper, and quality control before and after the building process wasn’t up to standards. For a full report, visit his website.
Still, the Bird’s Nest continues to remain profitable, drawing in crowds of 20,000-30,000 daily at the admission price of RMB 50per person. The venue costs approximately USD 9 million to maintain yearly.
Although it is now more of a landmark just for tourist attraction, the stadium is still continuing to seek sports and entertainment, and is still an iconic symbol of Beijing, and the glory that opened the doors of the West to the new China and new Beijing.
Photos by Sophie Zhu