Already decaying infrastructure from the 2008 Summer Games should serve as a lesson to all cities that follow.

While being awarded the 2008 Summer Olympics allowed Beijing to construct new architectural icons and receive international accolades, its current reality is a collection of unused sports facilities with few if any plans for reuse.

Olympics 2012 bug
London gets ready for the Summer Games See full coverage

It could take 30 years to pay off the $471 million bill for the Bird's Nest, while the Water Cube lost about $1 million last year even after public financial assistance and the addition of a water park.

And those are the facilities still in use. Venues for kayaking, beach volleyball, BMX, and baseball sit untouched since 2008. Signage and landscaping appear to have gone without maintenance since the closing ceremonies.

Beijing Olympics officials approached the 2008 Games as an opportunity to host the world's biggest sporting event, not to create infrastructure of permanent importance. Now Beijing is left with a post-Olympics landscape that better suits the taste of ruin porn aficionados than urban development officials. It’s a story that should serve as a warning not only to London but future cities that have their sights set on investing billions into new infrastructure for a two-and-a-half week event.

Earlier this year, Reuters photographer David Gray captured the current state of Beijing's Olympic facilities. Here's what he found:

The 2008 Beijing Olympics venue for the beach volleyball competition lies deserted and unmaintained. REUTERS/David Gray
A sign stands at a deserted field showing where the stadium for the 2008 Olympic Games baseball competition once stood. REUTERS/David Gray
The deserted and unmaintained former venue for the kayaking competition of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, can be seen on the outskirts of Beijing. REUTERS/David Gray
A car driven by a student of a driving school slowly moves around the carpark in front of the deserted 2008 Beijing Olympics venue for the cycling competition. REUTERS/David Gray
An old Olympic accreditation board lies on an unmaintained jetty at the deserted former venue for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games rowing competition. REUTERS/David Gray
A weathered notice is seen on the main gate to the deserted and unmaintained former venue for the rowing and kayaking competitions. REUTERS/David Gray
A sign that reads "Keep off the Grass" stands at the deserted and unmaintained former venue for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games rowing competition. REUTERS/David Gray
A dog sits atop glass plates at a deserted field that was once part of the stadium where the 2008 Olympic Games baseball competition was held. REUTERS/David Gray
A chair lies on a deserted field that was once part of the stadium where the 2008 Olympic Games baseball competition was held. REUTERS/David Gray
The 2008 Beijing Olympics venue for the BMX competition lies deserted and overgrown in central Beijing. REUTERS/David Gray
A security guard tries to find the puncture in the inner-tube of his bicycle tire by immersing it in the deserted and unmaintained former course for the kayaking competition of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. REUTERS/David Gray
A dog sits atop glass plates at a deserted field that was once part of the stadium where the 2008 Olympic Games baseball competition. REUTERS/David Gray
The 2008 Beijing Olympics venue for the beach volleyball competition lies deserted and unmaintained in central Beijing. REUTERS/David Gray
The flag poles used for medal ceremonies stand next to the deserted and unmaintained former course for the kayaking competition. REUTERS/David Gray
A make-shift broom lies on a deserted field that was once part of the stadium where the 2008 Olympic Games baseball competition was held. REUTERS/David Gray

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A small accessory dwelling unit—known as an ADU—is attached to an older single-family home in a Portland, Oregon, neighborhood.
    Design

    The Granny Flats Are Coming

    A new book argues that the U.S. is about to see more accessory dwelling units and guides homeowners on how to design and build them.

  2. Police cars outside the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City
    Life

    The Great Crime Decline and the Comeback of Cities

    Patrick Sharkey, author of Uneasy Peace, talks to CityLab about how the drop in crime has transformed American cities.

  3. Design

    These Sneakers Are Your Free Transit Pass

    A new BVG-Adidas collaboration means unlimited travel along Berlin’s public transit network for the rest of 2018. That is if you can find a pair.

  4. Transportation

    To Measure the 'Uber Effect,' Cities Get Creative

    Ride-hailing companies are cagey on all-important trip data. So researchers are finding clever workarounds.

  5. People walk through a crosswalk.
    Equity

    Great Cities Enable You to Live Longer

    Dense, well-educated, immigrant-friendly cities boost longevity—especially for the low-income.