Thursday, February 23
Soviet-era aircraft carrier-turned-theme park to be auctioned off in China
By DEAN VISSER | Associated Press
February 22, 2006
BEIJING (AP) - Not enough room on board your yacht?
Bids will start at 128 million yuan (US$15.9 million) to sail away on the Minsk, an ex-Soviet aircraft carrier based in China, the official Xinhua News Agency said Wednesday.
The carrier will be auctioned off next month after its owner turned it into a military-themed amusement park and went bankrupt, the agency said.
Once the pride of the Soviet Union's Cold War-era Pacific Fleet, the carrier _ decks crammed with carnival attractions and souvenir booths _ now looms over fishing boats in China's bustling southeastern city of Shenzhen.
The Minsk was built in 1972, put into service six years later and retired in the early 1990s, Xinhua said.
It was sold for scrap to a company in South Korea before ending up with Minsk World Industries Co. Ltd. in 1998.
The 43,000-ton Kiev-class vessel's appearance in Shenzhen triggered speculation over China's ambitions to acquire an aircraft carrier to extend its military reach.
But Minsk World Industries had other plans.
The company spent 16 months and a "huge" amount of money to turn it into a tourist attraction, the news agency said.
A local court declared Minsk World Industries bankrupt last year after it failed to pay off its debts to Chinese banks, the report said, without giving details.
The ship has remained open for business, and drew 33,000 visitors in seven days during the recent Chinese Lunar New Year holiday, Xinhua said.
Minsk World Industries runs a wide range of businesses including restaurants, beauty salons and trading enterprises, it said.
It wasn't clear from the report what caused the bankruptcy. Telephones rang unanswered Wednesday night at a number given on a Web site promoting Minsk tours.
Xinhua said many Shenzhen residents hope the aircraft carrier can stay, and view the massive tourist attraction as a symbol of their sprawling and heavily industrialized town next to flashy, glamorous Hong Kong.
An update on my book, The Journal of Ride Theory Omnibus: It's now available in a hardback edition for $29.95. The trade paperback is still $16.00.
Monday, February 20
Here is an excellent article on The Holy Land theme park in Orlando, written from a Jewish perspective.