The 2008 Olympic Venues are a very important site to Beijing (the must-see for last minute China travel deals) and to China, not only because they were the scene of last summer's XXIX Olympic Games, but because of how China has chosen to present themselves to the world with these venues. China has long since been a country shrouded in mystery and now has chosen to open their doors and share their culture happily with the world; the Olympic games was one of the first opportunities we get to see how China wants to present itself.
◇ What to know before you head to Olympic Park:
Beijing's Olympic park is easily accessed via the Green Line on the Subway.
Admission into the Bird's Nest is 50 RMB (unit for China money) and allows visitors to sit in the very seats spectators watched the Olympics. It isn't hard to imagine the excitement of the crowd and the enthusiasm hanging in the air from the games. Visitors can walk onto the field and look out into the "crowd" or simply have their picture taken with all of the larger than life Olympic mascots in the stands. These mascots (Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying and Nini) are favorites among visitors and there is often a long line to get pictures made with a favorite. Just above the stands is an Olympic gift shop that visitors can come to peruse for their favorite hard-to-get merchandise. Although there isn't much else to do inside the stadium, it remains a cultural icon for Beijing and visitors are in no short supply. This is currently the largest source of income for the venue and usually fairly crowded.
The best time to visit the park is night, when the venues seem to come alive in brilliant shades of soft reds and blues. The Bird's Nest is illuminated in red and stands in stark contrast to the architecture of Ai Weiwei. The skeleton of the building stands out and the "negative space" takes center stage at night. It seems to reflect the warm light of the Olympic torch, a testament that even though the games are over, the spirit of the Olympics will never be extinguished. The Water Cube however is illuminated in a bright brilliant blue shade, reminiscent of the aquatic interior. These two brilliant nightlights bring a paradox of fire and water onto the Olympic Park while kite flyers quietly soar long tailed kites into the night sky and people stroll along the illuminated park.
◇ What is in store for the venues now that the Games are over?
One of the most exciting things about the venues is that their uses have not been limited to the Olympic Games but have since converted into world class venues for top events. The sites of the Olympic make contribution to China tourism.
The Water Cube, still containing its diving platform and pools, has most recently converted into a water stage for the Imperial Russian Ballet. The world's first "sports edition" of the classic ballet Swan Lake was running through August 2, 2009 and showcased exciting divers and swimmers along with the classic ballerinas. Also the Olympic warm-up pool has been opened to the public and for 50 RMB, visitors can do laps in the same pool as Olympic greats like Michael Phelps.
The Bird's Nest has a lot of new and exciting activities lined up on the schedule. Most recently it was home to a summer concert series that included greats such as: Song Zuying, Jay Chou, Placido Domingo, and Lang Lang; all national favorites. It has been theorized that this could develop into an annual event for the venue and a great way to kick off summer. Other upcoming events include the opera Turandot, which, staged by Zhang Yimou (chief director of the opening and closing ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics), will begin on October 6. Additionally Beijing's first international car racing festival, the 2009 ROC Nations Cup, will be held on November 1, 2009.
Be sure to be on the lookout for other upcoming events. These are a great way to convert the venues into a new use and not let them slip into a dated era. Beijing anticipates using them for many years and is currently considering selling the naming rights. For more others via China guide.
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