CCTV Fire: Anticipation of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Smoldered

CCTV Burning Building
Photo: Los Angeles Times

On the final night of festivities celebrating the two-week Chinese New Year holiday, a fire broke out in Beijing’s Television Cultural Center (TVCC). This structure, among the rest of the China Central Television complex designed by Rem Koolhaas of OMA, stood adjacent to the iconic CCTV Headquarters building. According to the Los Angeles Times, the fire started around 8:20 p.m. near the roof of the reportedly “empty” building. “It crawled down one side of the building and appeared to ignite more fireworks, which kept bursting out in technicolor streaks.”

In the development of the story, the official Xinhua News Agency reported that the fire was not fully extinguished until early Tuesday morning. According to the New York Times, Xinhua also stated that the igniting of 700 firecrackers just outside the hotel was the main cause of the blaze, and that CCTV had hired a fireworks company for a “planned show.” In addition to the building damages, one firefighter was killed and seven people were injured. Of the seven, six were firefighters.

The building (picture below on the left) was to be completed in the spring of this year.

CCTV Diagram


During the time of the incident, many people of Beijing were documenting and posting up information and images in real-time. According to David Feng of, it was people on Twitter (a free, real-time, social messaging utility started in 2006) that first captured news of the fire. With constant updates on his own site, Feng documented his own travels to capture images of the burning building. He concluded with what he labeled as “The Vox Populi,” or the “Voice of the people.”

The Vox Populi

In no particular order, and uncensored and virtually unretouched, here are some views from this pretty tense night that shows you what we in the Jing think about all this:

• Tonight’s the last night you can set those firecrackers off. Officially you’re supposed to be detained if you set them off after midnight, so let’s roll — and set the thing up as much as we can.

• What? Big Pants? No, wait, Big Boot. That’s a lot of money wasted.

• Not a lot of folks liked the new CCTV complex anyway. It’s a total waste of cash and looks just outright weird.

• “Help! Help! Those two buildings are coming together and are being built slanted!” (That was what locals complained when work on the nearby Big Pants got underway in late 2006.)

• I think next year we’ll see the rules changed — firecrackers won’t be allowed in the city center any more as of 2010.

Following a string of recent disasters in China, such as the Sichuan earthquake, riots in Tibet, and a more than three month drought in Beijing, the fire leaves the Chinese to question the auspiciousness of the approaching year. Is the fire a poor omen for the future?


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