Breaking News
More () »

What are those towers at the Beijing Olympics?

No, they're not part of a nuclear power plant -- but many viewers were confused.

BEIJING, China — The Beijing Olympics have an unexpected star: A set of giant towers that look quite a bit like nuclear reactors. 

The question "is that a nuclear power plant in Beijing?" trended on Google as skiers tackled Beijing's Big Air Shougang course. While the huge, curved towers look straight out of "The Simpsons," the true answer is about a different industry. 

In truth, the 200-foot big air structure was built on the site of the former Shougang Group steel mill. Its billowing smokestacks provided work for thousands but also darkened the sky over Beijing’s Shijingshan District, contributing to the city’s air pollution problem.

China closed the factory in conjunction with the 2008 Summer Games, seeking to clean up its image, as well as its air. The sprawling campus has been converted into a bizarre, yet beautiful, city oasis.

One of the centerpieces at the former Shougang Group steel mill is the Olympic big air jump — the first permanent, city-based venue the sport has ever had. 

It's not exactly the mountain views most skiers are used to, but it seemed to grow on many athletes. 

“The like, crazy smokestack things in the back are pretty cool,” American freeskier Alex Hall said earlier in the Olympics. “You get to see some of the mountains in the background, you got this temple here, the city’s that way, the steel factory. You get to see a lot of stuff.”

“This feels like it was created in a virtual world, in a video game,” American freeskiier Nick Goepper said.

Jennifer Campbell-Hicks contributed to this report.

Before You Leave, Check This Out