China's Olympic Wonders Dazzle—at First

Beijing tried to impress, not deal with deeper issues
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted May 26, 2008 5:27 PM CDT
A Chinese man is silhouetted near the National Aquatics Center also known as the Water Cube, as engineers test the lights embedded into the bubble surface of the building in Beijing, Tuesday, March 4,...   (AP Photo/Color China Photo)
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(Newser) – Beijing's new Olympic buildings will impress the world at first glance, Paul Goldberger writes in the New Yorker. The National Stadium boasts a lattice of crisscrossing beams, and the blue-gray Aquatic Center seems underwater with its translucent plastic pillows. But peel back the paint, and see evidence of what enrages the world about China.

For one, Beijing's plan failed to tackle the city's deeper issues, like overcrowding and pollution. Officials also used thousands of underpaid workers and razed reams of low-cost housing to build its stadium. In the end, these shiny gems typify Beijing's "reckless embrace of the fashionable" and neglect of the "human cost"—traits that are "denaturing, even destroying, the fabric of the city."