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Beijing After the Olympics

By staff reporter DE YONGJIAN

FEW will argue that the recently concluded Beijing Games will stand as a great example in the annals of the Olympic movement. But beyond the obvious, concrete legacies represented by Beijing's entirely modernized, envy-inducing infrastructure, the true impact of the 2008 Olympics will take time to manifest itself as China continues its march forward.

New Space

    To be sure, the 12 new venues that are now iconic features of the new Beijing, and the thorough improvements made to 11 other stadiums and arenas, are revolutionary in their own right, marking a bold departure in the way future Olympic architecture will be designed and judged.

    With the addition of eight temporary venues refitted for the Games, 31 venues in all now dot Beijing, with the 10 most breathtaking scattered around the Olympic Green in the north of the city, and the remainder dispersed in the western and eastern districts, the university area and the northern suburbs. With the Olympics over, these venues and the Olympic Green have been transformed into new public spaces, and together they will play host to millions of tourists and hundreds of competitions in subsequent years.

    The 1,000-hectare Olympic Green, for example, consists of a 291-hectare central area (which includes the "Bird's Nest" and "Water Cube"), a 680-hectare forest park, as well as the China Ethnic Museum. These have become the centerpieces of a new Games-themed resort.



The "Bird's Nest" has become a tourist attraction since the Beijing Olympics.


    According to the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Tourism, 10 service facilities, such as restaurants, shopping malls, parking lots and tourist information centers, will be built in the central area, whose main purpose will be tourism. Planned tour routes include an Olympic venues tour and an ecological tour of the Olympic Forest Park, which was opened to the public on September 21.

    With regards to that most famous of Olympic venues, the "Bird's Nest," it will serve as a multi-functional amusement center, and in addition to hosting sporting events, there are hopes that it will become home to the Beijing football club.

    Another beloved landmark venue, the "Water Cube," will become an immense aquatic park, and will include such amenities as an artificial beach and water slides. Only 6,000 of the original 17,000 seats will remain, and the area available for competitions will be reduced to about one-fifth of the available space.

    And in a move sure to please China's millions of basketball fans, the Wukesong Indoor Stadium will become the National Basketball Association's first fixed venue in China, where several NBA exhibition games will be held throughout the year.

    The temporary fencing venue, the Swordplay Palaestra, will become a huge conference hall with a capacity of 6,000 people, slightly less than the Great Hall of the People, while four venues located on the campuses of various Beijing's universities will be opened to college students and the public alike. Finally, the Chaoyang Park Beach Volleyball Ground will be transformed into a bathing beach, with a 5,000-square-meter swimming pool to be built nearby.

New Urban Rail Lines

    "While it might take some time to see how the other Olympic legacies fare, I can optimistically predict that the newly expanded and modernized subway and light rail system will be one of the most valuable and popular," said one member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. He argued that by freeing city streets of congestion, the punctual and energy-efficient subway and other lines deserve to be the principal part of Beijing's transportation system, as it has already become in a number of the world's megalopolises.

    On July 14, 2001, the day after Beijing won the bid for 2008 Olympics, the Beijing municipal government announced an input of RMB 90 billion for infrastructure construction, including the subway, light rail lines, expressways and the airport. The Traffic Development Outline of Beijing was begun a year later and officially issued in 2005. It clarified policy priority on public transport, and between October 2007 and July 2008, four rail lines were opened, increasing Beijing's urban track mileage to 220 kilometers.

    During the Beijing Games themselves, the Beijing subway transported 63 million people, and its popularity with visitors and locals alike was beyond dispute. According to the Beijing Municipal Commission for Urban Planning, the construction of track transportation will not cease after the Beijing Olympics.

    Within two years, track mileage will be extended to 300 kilometers, and to over 400 kilometers in three years. If all goes according to plan, in the next five years the track network will comprise 19 lines, and by 2015 the estimated track mileage in Beijing will be 561 kilometers. Everything is being done to ensure that public transit will be the commuter's transportation of choice in the near future.

    Another auxiliary transportation project built for the Beijing Olympics — the 120-kilometer intercity railway between Beijing and Tianjin — was already in service before the opening ceremony. With a top speed of 350 kilometers per hour, the bullet train to Tianjin, which was the co-host city for the football events, halved travel time to 30 minutes.

    Not only will that greatly help tourists and travelers, but more importantly the railway will boost economic exchange between the two cities. With Beijing acting as a mature services and high-tech provider, Tianjin's well-developed manufacturing and port resources will complement the capital's growth.

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VOL.59 NO.12 December 2010 Advertise on Site Contact Us