The $43 Billion Dollar Propaganda Film

I think everyone was blown away by the Olympic opening ceremony last year in Beijing.  I usually yawn at such events, but this one was spectacular.  I enjoyed it, even though I knew in my heart I was watching the modern version of "Triumph of the Will."  I would have enjoyed it much less if I had been paying for it, and probably even less if I was organizing the show in London four years hence and expected to top such an event.

Well, it appears that it was not just the opening ceremony that was a one-off propaganda push, but the entire rebuilding of the city center (via the Sports Economist)

Reporting from Beijing -- "Empty," says Jack Rodman, an expert in distressed real estate, as he points from the window of his 40th-floor office toward a silver-skinned prism rising out of the Beijing skyline.

"Beautiful building, but not a single tenant.

"Completely empty.


So goes the refrain as his finger skips from building to building, each flashier than the next, and few of them more than barely occupied.

...The government spent $43 billion for the Olympics, nearly three times as much as any other host city. But many of the venues proved too big, too expensive and more photogenic than practical.

...The National Stadium, known as the Bird's Nest, has only one event scheduled for this year: a performance of the opera "Turandot" on Aug. 8, the one-year anniversary of the Olympic opening ceremony. China's leading soccer club backed out of a deal to play there, saying it would be an embarrassment to use a 91,000-seat stadium for games that ordinarily attract only 10,000 spectators.

The venue, which costs $9 million a year to maintain, is expected to be turned into a shopping mall in several years, its owners announced last month.

A baseball stadium that opened last spring with an exhibition game between the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres, is being demolished. Its owner says it also will use the land for a shopping mall.


  1. Kyle Bennett:

    I don't have time to find the reference now, but prior to the Olympics, some journo had written about the "Potemkin Olympic Village"

  2. K:

    $43B was just three times what was spent before? And the Chinese actually spent their own money?

    Well, no wonder they are criticized. What government does that?

    The interesting item is the lack of interest in soccer. If the national team can only draw 10,000 in the capitol - and probably with heavy subsidies at that - the Chinese must be indifferent to the sport.

    Ditto the baseball venue. It is good to see it will be razed and something else tried. The odd mental illness of nostalgia for virtually any substantial structure has apparently not afflicted the owner or the local authorities.

  3. Anon E. Mouse:

    Sounds like a great stimulus plan they had there. Good thing we're going to show those Chinese how to do it right!

  4. Morven:

    I do have to agree with K that at least they have the sense to knock down dramatic buildings that have no commercial justification. A lot of places would build something like that and then just pay to keep it there and unused for twenty or thirty or a hundred years, out of foolish pride.

  5. HTRN:

    IIRC, The WTC also took a long time to reach full occupancy - over a decade, I think. Keep in mind, that when you build monstrous amounts of office space(The WTC represented something like 10% of the total office space in downtown Manhattan), it's gonna take awhile to fill.