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Beijing Olympics allure fails to attract investors to athlete’s apartments

Apartment prices in the Beijing 2008 Olympic village where the world's best athletes stayed during the Games are falling.

Prices doubled from January to September 2008 but now these prestigious apartments are considered too pricey and they have fallen 3.1% in January.

Those who buy will not be able to move in until October when renovations are complete but hundreds are still unsold.

'It would be nice to be next to the Olympic park and part of history too, but it offers nothing else. It's too expensive for apartments that aren't centrally located,' said Li Feng, a property investor who owns four apartments in the capital.

'In such uncertain times, I will hold back from buying more apartments. I'm just keeping my cash now,' explained Li Feng who has only managed to rent out one of her four apartments so far.

Beijing property prices had weathered the economic storm but prices began dropping in January for the first time since records began in 2005.

China's economic growth slowed to 6.8% in the fourth quarter of last year, the lowest in seven years, because of the global recession. Now even the capital is not immune although investors have seen an annual 8.2% increase in the last four years, according to official statistics.

'Buyers are taking a wait and see attitude and not snapping up properties in Beijing as they would previously,' said Francis Zheng, general manager at Beijing Jia Hua Four Seasons International Exhibition Company, a property show organizer.

More than 1,400, just over half of the Olympic Village apartments were sold before mid September, data from the Beijing Municipal Construction Committee shows but they have not updated the figures since amid rumours that very few have sold since.

Things in the rest of the city are not much better. New projects launched in the Olympic area in the north of Beijing within walking distance of the Bird's Nest stadium and Water Cube swimming pool have also seen prices fall.

That is unlikely to change according to Pan Shiyi, chairman of SOHO China Ltd, Beijing's biggest property developer who predicts further price falls this year.

'Many families are watching their expenditure, especially for big ticket spending like buying a property,' he said.