- Title: CHINA: OLYMPICS - Olympic stadium designer boycotts Beijing 2008 games
- Date: 11th August 2007
- Summary: CLOSE UP OF ART PIECE
- Embargoed: 26th August 2007 13:00
- Location: China
- Country: China
- Topics: Sports
- Reuters ID: LVA9ZZR3RRL4QVDGFU7BYP9WAWBQ
- Story Text: The centrepiece of the 2008 Olympics, the national stadium cost more than 4 million US Dollars to build. Over 5000 construction workers have been working on it for just an average of 150 US Dollars a month.
The "Bird's Nest" as it is popularly called will be the venue for the opening and closing ceremony of the 2008 Olympics and other events.
The 90,000 capacity stadium was designed by Ai Weiwei, who is one of the most famous artists in the country. Together with Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, they came up with this unique design that has become the face of Beijing 2008.
"How related is this Olympics to the real state of of the country, the city and the people? If it is far away from reality, then it's something fake and hypocritical. How much does the Olympics as a political event or sports event have to do with a country's recent history? If many of the historical events are not clarified, then this is fake and hypocritical,"
Ai Weiwei's father Ai Qing was one of China's best well-known modern poets. His earlier works were about the country's fight for liberation from the Japanese and Kuomintang. His poems on China's decade long cultural revolution have been banned since 1957. Banished to Xinjiang, a region which borders Afghanistan, he was forced to clean toilets.
But the country's recent history didn't turn down the flame of nationalism. A proud China invited the world to the 2008 Beijing Olympics with a dazzling song-and-dance and fireworks display on the one year countdown.
Crowds gathered on the iconic Tiananmen Square as they were overlooked by a giant portrait of Mao Zedong, the founder of Communist China, in front of a brightly lit Gate of Heavenly Peace.
"I want to ask people living in this city how much they want to live under bad conditions in this city if there was no Olympics. How long are they willing to continue living like this? So should a city improve at all if it was not an Olympic host city? If the city is only doing this because of the Olympics, then it's really pathetic. Anybody who is grateful that we get this or that because of the Olympics is begging without principle," Ai said.
Beijing is constructing thirty-one venues for the Games and has embarked on a 40 billion US dollar project to upgrade the city. A massive number of old houses and lanes known as Hutong were torn down to make room for office buildings and venues. The government has vowed to clean up the smoggy city air.
"When we were bidding for the project, we didn't even know if we could get it. I never thought of making money off of something like this. But I did make some money. As for fame, I don't understand what kind of fame this bird's nest can bring me." Ai said.
The Chinese capital will hold a test drill for keeping cars off the road during its 2008 Olympic Games-- a crucial hurdle for the city is pollution and traffic jams. Between Aug. 17 and 20, about 1.3 million of the city's 3 million vehicles will be ordered off the streets each day depending on whether license plates end with odd or even numbers.
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