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Public or Private? National Sports Stadium Accused of Charging High Ticket Price

November 12th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Business, Government |

Legal Daily (法制日报), a Beijing-based newspaper, published a piece this week looking at the ticket price of China’s National Sports Stadium or the “bird’s nest.” Below are some excerpts:

“We’re very disappointed the National Sports Stadium doesn’t sell half-price tickets to our seniors,”  said grey-haired Wang Huifu, 70. Some senior high and colleague students are, too, not cool with the price. “They don’t offer half-price tickets. Is the ‘bird’s nest’ still a public place?” Located in the Olympic Park, this RMB 3.1 trillion (roughly $ 454.45 million USD) main arena has attracted millions of visitors after the Games, becoming a new tourist attraction and an icon of the capital city.

The Olympic Park received 180,000 visitors in the first day of its opening. One thirds of these visitors went to the National Stadium, making it the most visited venue in the Park. The ticket is priced at RMB 50 (roughly $ 7 USD). Aside from children under 1.2 meter(4 feet), only JGZ (military certificate) and certificate for the physically challenged holders can enter the stadium free of charge.

“Even the Forbidden City offers half-price tickets, why not here? So this is not a tourist attraction?” Mr. Xiang argued with a ticket clerk. “This is almost an imparity clause. Now that it’s open to the public, why they set such high a price without offering high-price tickets?” voiced a tour guide agreeingly.

“The price was set by superiors. We thought about offering half-price tickets to seniors and students. But it wouldn’t pay back our cost if we did, as they accounted for too much of our visitors,” said a ticket clerk, who didn’t explain further how much their cost and who the superiors are.

Generally speaking, stadiums as socially-good facilities are invested by the government. It’s run by competent department while still backed by the government. In this case, ticket price of the National Stadium should be decided by the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform and Beijing Tourism Administration. As the biggest stadium in China, the “bird’s nest” was said to adopt a government-led and market-oriented way of operation even before it was built. “This is to hatch a golden egg out of the ‘nest’,” said an employee at the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games. But the situation here seems to be more complicated.

The owner of the National Stadium is National Stadium Co., Ltd. And the CITIC Group consortium was granted a 30-year chartered management right to the venue. (Note: The National Stadium Co., Ltd. is made up of the Beijing State-Owned Assets Management Co., Ltd. (BSAM), who has a 58% investment interest in the stadium, and the CITIC Group consortium, who has invested 42% in the venue. The CITIC Group consortium is composed of the China International Trust and Investment Company (CITIC), the Beijing Urban Construction Group, CITIC Group affiliate Guan Elstrong from Hong Kong and the Golden State Holding Group from the United States. Follow THIS LINK to find more info.) The BSAM will get back its privilege of management after.

“Looking from this aspect, the company need to get back its high maintenance costs. So it’s not a surprise they set the price this high,” commented an industry analyst.

Though the CITIC Group consortium has gotten 30 years of management right, could they also decide on pricing? Does the stadium belong to the public? Are government departments concerned in control of its pricing? Should we hold public hearings to decide whether the price is good and there’s a need to offer half-price tickets?

“The ‘bird’s nest’ is not like a park. It’s a place for business. Our company is responsible for its maintenance and operation, and we also decide the ticket price,” a lady from the operating department of National Stadium Co., Ltd. said to the reporter, “When did you see the National Opera House offering half-pirce tickets?”

“We talked with the Beijing Tourism Administration (BTA) about this. And the price is set after considering various opinions,” she continued. An employee from the BTA confirmed her words by saying that they can only give some guidance to the company.

“It’s without question that the company setting the ticket price on their own in order to take back its high maintenance costs. But as the national stadium, the ‘bird’s nest’ has already been perceived by citizens as a public sports facility. This is about huge social and public interests. We still need to consider if they can set the ticket price directly themselves without going through public hearings,” said Dai Xuefeng, assistant director of tourism research center at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Every company would pursue profits following the law of market economy. But when public interests is involved, supervision from government cannot be missed.

The Bird’s Nest attracted millions of visitors during the holiday

Legal Daily’s article (Chinese)

Photo: Legal Daily

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  • 1 China Journal : Best of the China Blogs: November 13 // Nov 13, 2008 at 11:04 am

    [...] has opened to the public, but you still have to pay for admission. Seniors and students are up in arms about the lack of discount tickets for them. [China Sports [...]

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