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From Foreclosure to Fore! Abandoned Shenzhen Stadium Becomes Thriving Golf Range

Posted: 05/12/2014 2:02 pm

After the fanfare died down and athletes left the 2011 Shenzhen Universiade, the Shenzhen Sports Center suffered the ominous fate facing many national stadiums in China—abandonment.

But the Shenzhen Sports Center seems to have found a way out of this plight. It has converted its football field into a golf driving range and charges lofty membership fees to sustain its daily operation, Xinhua News Agency reported on May 10.

After first opening in August 2013, the golf club has attracted more than 500 members. Membership fees range from RMB 3,500 (USD 560) to RMB 11,000 (USD 1,800). Non-club members are also admitted as long as they pay for entry, the report said.

This financially-viable method adopted by the Shenzhen facility may prove to be a winning solution. In comparison, most of the sports venues built for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing have been left to rot and are heavily in debt. According to The Atlantic, it could take 30 years to pay off the $471 million bill for the Bird’s Nest. The Water Cube, also known as the National Aquatics Center, lost about $1 million in 2011 despite public financing and the addition of a water park.

These two former Beijing Olympic venues are fortunate to be still in operation. The rowing and kayaking center, baseball arena and BMX track, however, have been left deserted or demolished as seen in a series of photos taken by Reuters’ photographer 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.

However, a problem with the transformation of the Shenzhen Sports Center is that residents are angry the center is using taxpayers’ money to serve a privileged few. The sports venue cost the government a total RMB 630 million (USD 101.2 million), and the residents are complaining that the few remaining football fields left in Shenzhen are increasingly being converted into golf courses.

The cultural bureau of Bao’an District in Shenzhen responded that turning government-funded sports centers into golf ranges does not violate any rules. The bureau said, “The state doesn’t prohibit such an act, nor does it encourage it. This is somewhat a grey area.”

Since 2009, the sports center is no longer categorized by the local government as an enterprise unit (事业单位), and from then on was incorporated as an state-owned enterprise, the first of its kind in China. This means the center is responsible for its own financial losses and gains.

Liu Tong, head of the center’s management department, told the newspaper that even though the center is fully booked for a year, the driving range is only able to earn at total of RMB 400,000 (USD 64,000). This amount is far from the total cost required for daily operation that includes employee salary, electricity, water and lawn maintenance, and as such requires government financial assistance.

In a country known for building excessive infrastructure and properties, Shenzhen’s golf range solution may provide an answer to the country’s empty stadiums and increasing numbers of uninhabitated ghost towns.

Don’t be surprised if you start to see expensive golf courses springing up in Beijing and Shanghai’s sports centers, after all, it is “somewhat a grey area“.

Photos: Yangcheng Evening News, David Gray/Reuters


Shenzhen Universiade lost US$1.9 billion; corruption not a factor, just incompetence

Posted: 12/31/2012 1:00 pm

The opening ceremonies at the Shenzhen Universiade

The numbers have been crunched and the final bill has been sent to the Shenzhen government for the 2011 Universiade, and it’s not cheap.

A report by the city’s auditor shows Shenzhen spent RMB 14 billion on hosting the games, which included new venues, upgrades to transport infrastructure and security.  Yet the games only generated RMB 1.2 billion in revenue for a total loss of RMB 12.8 billion.

While thoughts of official corruption and siphoning off funds for cronies springs to mind as a possible cause of the waste, the report says corruption and crime was not a major factor in the loss, according to the South China Morning Post (behind a paywall):

The auditor said it found no evidence of serious crimes involving the games, also known as the Universiade, despite investigations and prosecutions of at least eight senior officials, including former Shenzhen mayor Xu Zongheng, which some had attributed to spending in preparation for the event. Xu received a suspended death sentence in May last year.

“[The audit bureau] traced the Universiade’s preparation and operation between January 2008 and September 2012 and hasn’t found any serious violation of laws and discipline from operational spending to stadium construction,” the report said. It made no mention of the officials concerned.

The auditor did say, however, that it found 50 million yuan in “problematic” spending, such as 11 million yuan in purchases outside of procedures and 12 million yuan that was not spent according to budget.

The report noted several small problems, including 745,500 yuan spent on fuel for a sailing competition which only needed a fraction of that.

Rather than viewing the expense in relation to hosting the games, perhaps they are viewed more accurately as the cost of modernizing the city’s transport network and other infrastructure. Still, losing RMB 12.8 billion is a lot of cash, and appears to be the exact price a city must pay for a little international prestige.



Shenzhen’s chengguan sent abroad for training, public wondering what they learned

Posted: 09/27/2012 7:00 am

Members of the public want details of what Chengguan learned during government-funded overseas inspection trips last year, according to local media.

Eighty-six Chengguan, urban administators who are not police but do basic police work, were sent abroad last year to attend events such as the International Botanical Congress (IBC) according to the Nanfang Daily.

Netizens wondered why Chengguan were being sent for training, at the tax payer’s expense, to country’s where no such role exists, according to Shenzhen Daily.

The Urban Administration Bureau explained on its microblog Sept. 24 that most of the Chengguan were sent to train for the Universiade, and for the IBC which will be held in Shenzhen in 2017.

Chengguan were sent to countries such as Hungary, Poland, the United States and Canada, and the bureau said it may release the findings of an inspection report after it has been completed.

Chengguan are not popular figures in today’s China, as you can see from some of the earlier controversies we told you about.

However, some Chengguan did redeem themselves to many netizens in late 2010, according to Chinasmack.


A legacy of Shenzhen’s Universiade that the city isn’t proud of

Posted: 06/9/2012 7:00 am

While one expects to see Chinglish on bathroom doors or restaurant menus, it can still be surprising when found in use by international companies or famous sporting events.

The Shenzhen Universiade has become the latest victim of a rather high-profile English gaffe.  The Universiade Cauldron Tower in Nanshan has displayed the terms “1th”, “2th” and “3th” since the games took place a year ago, which any native English speaker will tell you are incorrect.  In fact, many people have contacted the Shenzhen government and Universiade to point out the error, but their complaints have been dismissed.  Why?  Well, Shenzhen says those terms are a Universiade convention which have been used at all the games.

The International University Sports Federation (FISU), which organizes the Universiade, has finally chimed in to say, no, that’s not the case.  Indeed, those are English mistakes that have nothing to do with the Universiade itself.  This, according to a report in the Shenzhen Daily:

The Southern Metropolis Daily first reported the issue last August, quoting an unidentified person in charge of the Shenzhen Universiade’s opening and closing ceremonies as saying the incorrect numbers were, in fact, a convention of all Summer Universiades. The person told the paper that the style was used according to an FISU guidebook, and Chinese Foreign Ministry staff had been assured by FISU officials that the style had been used by Summer Universiades for the past 50 years.

But in an e-mail to Shenzhen Daily on Wednesday, FISU spokesman Christian Pierre acknowledged that the numbers are grammatical errors.

On FISU’s official Web site, the first, second and third Universiades are listed as “1st,” “2nd” and “3rd.”

The issue raises the question of whether there was a communication problem between Shenzhen Universiade organizers and FISU regarding the spelling, or if Shenzhen officials intentionally used a nonexistent “Universiade custom” as an excuse to cover up a simple mistake.

Our bet is on the coverup.


Universiade is done, but legacy will live on in Shenzhen…

Posted: 08/27/2011 12:51 pm

The Universiade was arguably the biggest event that Shenzhen has hosted in its very short history, and by all accounts it was pulled off successfully, as many expected.

The downside of the games having ended last week is this. We received a number of emails from readers in Shenzhen noting that air quality plummeted a mere few hours after the closing ceremonies concluded. But such is life in China (the same thing happened after the Beijing Olympics and Shanghai Expo, despite promises the air would be cleaned up for good).

If you didn’t get a chance to visit any of the venues, they are now open for tours. But to ensure nobody forgets about the Universiade over the long term, the flame tower is going to be turned into a public space, according to the Shenzhen Daily.

The Shenzhen Universiade flame tower will be permanently preserved with a memorial square to be built around it after the Games closes, Chinese newspapers reported yesterday.

The flame tower will become one of the landmark urban sculptures in Shenzhen.

The 26-meter flame tower is on the shores of Shenzhen Bay. The tower comprises irregular boxes representing books, with each one bearing the details of previous Universiades.

Shenzhen Executive Vice Mayor Lu Ruifeng, along with other officials of city bureaus of urban planning and land resources, construction works, and urban management, recently inspected the tower and studied the feasibility of building a memorial square.

One would think building any kind of ‘square’ in China could be dangerous (why give the angry masses a place to congregate?) but the thinking behind it is a good one. The Universiade marked a coming of age of sorts for Shenzhen, so it makes sense to build a memorial square. One figures Shenzhen will probably have the opportunity to host many other large-scale events in the future, based on the success of the Universiade.



Universiade opens today, airport closes…

Posted: 08/12/2011 9:39 am

The Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre is ready

Well, hello Shenzhen.

Today is a day that has been years in the making. For a long time, we’ve seen the Universiade signs, roads closed, construction underway, been told to clean the city, register with the police, and more. And after all this wait… all this anticipation… the Universiade is set to open today. Finally.

Security is tight in Shenzhen, much like the hours before the kickoff of the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008. In fact, even Hu Jintao himself is down in our fair city to preside over the glitzy opening ceremonies.

This is all fine and good for fans of the Universiade, but if you have flights scheduled to depart or arrive Shenzhen today, you’ll need to know this: Shenzhen Airport will be closed from 2pm to 7pm as a security measure today. That means no flights taking off or landing during that time. The Hong Kong Standard has a bit more:

Some mainland travel agencies said they were informed of the restrictions just a few days ago.

“I don’t think it’s right to ask so many people to change their work schedules just because of the games,” a woman tourist said.

The airport will also be closed for a few hours on August 23, when the closing ceremonies are held. One wonders if authorities are concerned about a security threat at airports or in the sky, why Guangzhou, Zhuhai, Macao, and Hong Kong airports continue to function, considering they are only a few kilometres away. But alas.

More than 12,000 athletes are in Shenzhen for the big show. If you’re out and about, send us some pictures that capture Shenzhen at its finest (and cleanest).



Universiade holidays announced, and one mightly long bus stop

Posted: 08/3/2011 11:11 am

We are only days away from the opening ceremonies of the Universiade, and already some media and other hangers-on have begun arriving in the city. Security is tight in Shenzhen ahead of the games, and troublemakers have already been sent elsewhere.

For those working in the city, you’re going to get a few extra days off this month. The Shenzhen government has unveiled the holidays, of which there will be a total of 7 days off. It’s a bit confusing, so we’ll try and break it down.

The opening ceremonies are on Friday August 12 and the closing ceremonies are on Tuesday August 23. Both days are absolute holidays, meaning no work needed and no make-up days required.


The government is also freeing the proletariat from work on Thursday August 11, Saturday August 13 and Sunday August 14. Combined with the 12th off for the opening ceremonies, that’s four straight days of no work. Monday August 22 and Wednesday August 24 are also days off, providing 3 straight holiday days at the end of the Universiade. The catch here is that these additional days off (*not* the days off for the opening and closing ceremonies) will need to be made up with additional days of work.

Employees need to work on Saturday August 6 and Saturday August 20, as well as Sunday August 21. Make sense?

If it’s still confusing, you can also find more information here.

One large bus stop

The bus stop at Futian Touzi and the Guangdian buildings have the longest waiting area in Shenzhen, according to an online report. The waiting area is 120 meters long.

A reporter with the paper interviewed somebody from the municipal government after spotting the extra-long waiting area. The government said it was built to resolve the problem caused by the massive volume of passengers and traffic at these two bus stops. Perhaps longer buses should be next on the agenda.



Don’t be bringing cyanide, explosives, or firearms on public transport in Shenzhen

Posted: 07/14/2011 11:05 am

Beijingers will be very familiar with this: tighter and tighter restrictions ahead of an international sporting event. Having lived in Beijing during the Olympics in 2008, I can say, humbly, that Beijing’s restrictions were much worse than what’s been happening in Shenzhen so far. Back then, even outdoor eating areas or beer gardens were closed for security reasons, in the middle of summer!

Nonetheless, if you ride the Shenzhen Metro (be careful of those pesky escalators), you’ll have already noticed some enhanced security measures. This is now going to be spread to all forms of public transport in Shenzhen, according to a report in the Southern Metropolis Daily (南方都市报) so kindly translated by @MissXQ:

Shenzhen will extend security checks from the subway to all kinds of public transportation, such as buses, intercity buses, travel vans and taxis from August 1st to 25th, according to a joint announcement from the Shenzhen Municipal Public Security Bureau and Transport Commission of Shenzhen Municipality.

Nine classification of items are not allowed to be brought on board public transportation by passengers.

Seems straight forward, right? Well, here are the nine categories:

  • firearms, military or police weapons
  • explosives
  • control tools
  • flammable items
  • toxic chemicals: including cyanide, pesticides and other highly toxic or corrosive materials
  • substances including sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, liquid batteries, sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, and more
  • radioactive substances: radioisotopes such as radioactive substances
  • anything that may endanger flight safety or interfere with the normal functioning of the various instruments of an aircraft, strong magnetic material, or a material with a strong or irritating smell
  • the provisions of state laws and regulations of other normally prohibited goods for transport

I’m not sure if carrying radioactive material in a Shenzhen taxi was a pressing social issue that needed attention, but there you have it. If you have any stories or good photos of intense security in Shenzhen in the lead-up to the Universiade, send us a quick email to let us know.

Be safe out there.



Universiade tickets are now on sale

Posted: 07/13/2011 9:10 am

Photo: Shenzhen Daily

The wait is nearly over for the start of the Universiade. With the opening ceremony only a few weeks away, tickets are now finally on sale.

A press conference was held yesterday to announce that tickets can be purchased at 31 branches of the China Merchants Bank in Shenzhen, as well as select Merchants Bank branches in Dongguan, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing. Tickets can also be purchased online at, but we couldn’t find an English version of the site. As with train tickets, you’ll need your ID card or passport to buy tickets.

Oh, and some sports are restricted, meaning you’ll be limited to two tickets.

The Shenzhen Daily has some details:

Tickets are priced at 30 yuan (US$4.5) to 300 yuan, depending on the popularity of the sports. No less than 1.8 million tickets would be available for residents, accounting for about 65 percent of the total number of tickets, said Wang Zhi, director of the Games tickets center.

The rest of the tickets would be allocated to athletes, sponsors and media staff, Wang said.

“Ticket prices are cheaper than the Beijing Olympics and Guangzhou Asian Games,” he said. Wang did not say whether tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies would be for sale. The ceremonies are among the highlights of the Games.

You can get more details at



Shenzhen expels 80,000 undesirables ahead of Universiade

Posted: 04/18/2011 11:01 am

With the world about to descend on Shenzhen, China is tightening up to ensure people that would “cause harm” to the country are kept out. When you add the Jasmine Revolutions sweeping the Middle East and high inflation in China, you can see why those in Zhongnanhai might be a little jittery.

We told you earlier that foreigners are being warned to ensure they have all the proper paperwork to live and work in Shenzhen. But the government certainly isn’t picking on laowai: it is also ridding Shenzhen of anybody else it doesn’t like prior to the games. From the China Daily:

Shenzhen has ejected about 80,000 “potentially unstable people” in a bid to secure social stability for the upcoming 26th Summer Universiade, the Shenzhen Economic Daily reported.

Shen Shaobao, vice director of Shenzhen Police Bureau announced the figure from the “100-days Social Security Campaign” during a news conference.

“People living in Shenzhen without proper identity, justifiable reasons and those acting suspiciously posing a threat to people and the social security are what we called unstable residents,”said Shen.

Eight groups of people are listed in the high-alert category, including former inmates, nomads, unemployed vagrants, people engaged in suspicious activity including drug trafficking and contraband goods. Since January police have also removed people who live by fraudulent means such as child-beggars, mentally ill people who pose a danger to others, and unregistered residents who earn money in the rental business and unclassified floating residents.

The Public Security Bureau is getting good at this, having done the same in Beijing in 2008 and Shanghai and Guangzhou in 2010. The question is, what does the Universiade think about it? The Wall Street Journal tried to find out:

Neither Shenzhen police nor the International University Sports Federation, the Belgium-based organization that puts on the Summer Universiade, responded to written requests for comment from The Wall Street Journal. It’s unclear where evicted residents were transferred and how officials determined which mentally ill residents posed a threat to public safety.

If you are an “undesirable” or an “unemployed vagrant”, best to lay low until October.

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