By Cui Xiaohuo
More than one year after its debut as one of the world's largest Olympic venues, the Bird's Nest remains a financial albatross.
"It's not an easy time for us either as we are racking our brains almost every day," said Zhou Bin, the venue's director of the research and development department.
"Each time a major event is held at the Bird's Nest, there is pressure to prevent the venue from becoming a white elephant," he told METRO.
The 3.6 billion yuan architectural wonder continued to be a hot public topic after the 2009 Race of Champions opened Monday in the stadium, its fifth major commercial event following the Beijing Olympics.
Seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher ignited the crowd last night as he sped through the racing circuits built inside the giant stadium.
But the individual success from a single commercial event like the 2009 Race of Champions may fall short for the government, because it costs a daily average of 200,000 yuan ($29,000) to keep the arena running. This is 70 million yuan annually.
|Photo: China Daily
Numbers of visitors to the venue have dropped from a peak of 50,000 people daily to only a few thousand daily in 2009, as public enthusiasm for the Olympics fades.
The new managing company for the 80,000-seat showpiece said yesterday they need to come up with new ideas.
The organizers of the event, the Beijing-based and State-owned sports contractor Great Gate Sports and Entertainment, told METRO the event is expected to earn more than 40 million yuan in sponsorship fees from three local companies and an international tire brand.
Less than two weeks after the one-year anniversary of the opening of the 2008 Olympic Games, ownership of the stadium was quietly passed to a State-controlled financial institution from private owners. A transition ceremony was attended by Beijing's vice-mayor and the vice-chairman of the CITIC Investment Holdings, which previously had full rights over how the stadium would operate commercially.