Commerce eyed at iconic venues

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 August, 2008, 12:00am

Shops at 'Water Cube'; bid to rename stadium

The 'Water Cube' and 'Bird's Nest' will be revamped into commercial venues as soon as the Paralympic Games have finished, although a detailed plan has yet to be authorised by the Beijing municipal government.

Under an initial plan drafted by the city's tourism bureau, 11,000 of the 17,000 seats in the 'Water Cube' would be removed. In their place, a water entertainment centre and shopping centre would be built.

'The entry price is to be reasonable enough for ordinary people to afford,' Beijing Tourism Administration director Zhang Huiguang said.

The commercialisation plan also included the National Stadium, or 'Bird's Nest', for which 48 per cent of the construction cost was funded by corporate sponsorship.

It had been planned that operating rights would be awarded to the sponsors for 30 years after the Games, and the naming rights would be sold to support its operation.

But pressure from the media, officials and the public to keep the name National Stadium, a source of national pride, has cast doubt on the plan to sell the naming rights.

'I cannot tell you anything or even comment on that, because it has become too complicated [for us to handle] at the moment,' the general manager of the company that operates the stadium, Zhang Hengli , said yesterday.

Many state media outlets and experts with strong government background, such as Wei Jizhong , a senior consultant with the Beijing Games' organisers, said it would be inappropriate to add a company name in front of 'National Stadium'. Huang Wei , a business consultant to the Games organisers, said the naming dispute should be solely decided by the government, not the small shareholders or operators.

'As the stadium is owned by the government and named National Stadium, it's totally for the government to decide whether or when to trade the naming rights,' he said.

Despite the uncertainty, the company operating the stadium would press ahead with marketing the stadium to the tourism and sport sectors, Zhang Hengli said.

Tourists visiting Beijing during the October 1-7 'golden week' national holiday would be able to visit all the Olympic venues for a fee.

Much of the Olympic setup and signage would remain in the venues to give visitors a taste of the Games, tourism chief Zhang Huiguang said.

But the flow of tourists beyond the 'golden week' was a big concern for the National Stadium, which, unlike the indoor air conditioned environment of the 'Water Cube', had nothing but an open field and seats.

Mr Zhang said concerts would likely be staged in the arena in the months to come.

It is estimated the National Stadium will cost between 50 million and 70 million yuan (HK$57 million and HK$80 million) a year to maintain.

Mr Huang said the operators of the 'Water Cube' and 'Bird's Nest' would have a hard time making enough money to support their daily operations.

He expected the number of people visiting the area would drop once the Olympic mood cooled off, especially once the venues stopped running their lights at night.