China's Post-Olympic Woe: How To Fill An Empty Nest (NPR)
Our class also considered the investment into this single building. The stadium's management estimates it will take 30 years to pay back the construction costs of 3 billion yuan ($480 million). To this day, the Bird's Nest has no regular tenant, requires $11 million each year to maintain (The Atlantic), and suffers from air pollution damage as well. These types of vanity projects are often called "white elephants" which The Los Angeles Times defines as "a big, expensive building that no longer serves a purpose."
While there may be symbolic value in "coming out" to the world, particularly for China in 2008, the hollow shells that litter Beijing take on their own symbolism in today's urbanizing environment. For whom were these built, and what is left over after the rest of the world moves on?
As a bonus, here are some photos I took of the Bird's Nest under construction in 2007—a time when Facebook was not yet blocked in China.