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People's Daily Online>>China Business

Olympic venues could be 'white elephants' without more revenue

By Wang Wen  (China Daily)

10:32, January 16, 2012

Beijing's Bird's Nest stadium. Many arenas in the city that hosted the 2008 Olympic Games are exploring flexible commercial solutions to fund maintenance and avoid losses.(China Daily Photo)

BEIJING - More than three years after the 2008 Olympic Games, managers of Beijing's Olympic landmarks are desperately exploring new ways to profit from them in order to avoid financial woes.

The most recent concern is the Water Cube, where American swimmer Michael Phelps snatched a record number of eight gold medals during the international competition. Enthusiasm for the bubble-like architectural wonder has continued to decline, with the number of visitors falling by almost a third in 2011 compared with 2010.

Due to an underperformance in projected revenues and the burden of holding public assemblies on behalf of the government, the Beijing National Aquatics Center Co Ltd, the government-owned company that runs the venue, said it was 11 million yuan ($1.74 million) short in balancing its books last year.

The venue's commercial income was about 88 million yuan in 2011, while the cost of operation was about 99.29 million yuan.

But Yang Qiyong, deputy manager of the company, said the Water Cube was not in the red because it had other income, such as government funding for some water sports that helped it to make up the shortfall.

At the annual meeting of national sports officials in late December, Yang drew attention to the need to keep the expensive venue going. It cost about 1 billion yuan to build in 2008 and has required 57 million yuan annually in basic running costs in the post-Olympic years.

Yang's company has renovated the Olympic venue twice during the past three years but failed to lure more visitors. Despite it's hosting of some large sports events and art performances the venue is still unable to break even, according to its operator.

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