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.
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 city is experiencing a sustained real estate boom, poaching employers—even pro sports teams—from surrounding municipalities. Places like Southfield, Pontiac, and Dearborn will have to find ways to keep up.