Artist behind Beijing's 'bird's nest' stadium boycotts Olympics

Last Updated: Saturday, August 11, 2007 | 4:37 PM ET

The Chinese artist behind the stunning Olympic stadium in Beijing, nicknamed The Bird's Nest, has lambasted the 2008 Games and says he wants no part in promoting it.

"I would rather be disconnected or forgotten," Ai Weiwei told The Guardian newspaper. 

The Chinese National Olympic Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, holds 91,000 people.The Chinese National Olympic Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, holds 91,000 people.
(Associated Press)

Ai, a prominent artist and designer living in Beijing, was hired by the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron to help create a design for the 91,000-seat stadium. The $400-million US building has been hailed as an architectural wonder, with its ribbons of intersecting steel resembling a bird's nest.

The artist is incensed by the positive show the Chinese government is putting forth ahead of the games, set to open Aug. 8, 2008, ignoring its human rights record.

"I hate the kind of feeling stirred up by promotion or propaganda … It's the kind of sentiment when you don't stick to the facts, but try to make up something, to mislead people away from a true discussion."

Ai says he hates that the stadium has become a shining symbol of China's march towards modernism. He calls it a "pretend smile."

"I would feel ashamed if I just designed something for glamour or to show some kind of fake image."

Ai also had choice words for other artistic types participating in the hoopla — filmmakers Steven Spielberg and Zhang Yimou, a former classmate from their days at the Beijing Film Academy.

"It's disgusting. I don't like anyone who shamelessly abuses their profession, who makes no moral judgment."

Organizers announced last April that Spielberg and Yimou had been hired as artistic consultants for the opening and closing ceremonies.

Spielberg has indicated he would pull out if China opposed a measure to increase UN peacekeepers in Darfur. That proposition recently passed.

'I did it because I love design...'—Ai WeiWei

The director said he would like the ceremonies to "give the world a taste of peace, friendship and understanding."

While Ai castigates the Chinese government and those involved in the Olympics, the artist says he has no regrets designing the stadium.

"I did it because I love design and the idea of how it would be looked at by others."

The 50-year-old comes by his anti-authoritarianism honestly. He spent much of his childhood in a remote province where his father, Ai Qin, one of China's most respected modern poets, was exiled during the Communist era for being an enemy of the state.

"I spent five years with him at a labour camp where he cleaned toilets," he told the website Gamesbid.com

Five years ago, police shut down a show curated by Ai. It included self-mutilation, human corpses and body parts.



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