July 14, 2006

Showpiece Beijing venues on course for 2007 completion

By Nick Mulvenney

BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing's "Bird's Nest" stadium and
"Water Cube" aquatics center, the showpiece venues for the 2008
Olympic Games, are on target for completion by the end of next
year, officials said on Friday.

More than 80 percent of the twisting steel structure that
gives the 91,000-seater stadium its nickname is already in
place, with the remainder set to be completed over the next few

"We're confident we'll be finished by the end of the year,"
Zhang Hengli, deputy manager of the National Stadium Company,
told reporters at the site.

"We've had a few problems with the material used to connect
the angles of the structure and twisting the steel into shape
but we've overcome those.

"The whole stadium will be finished in late 2007."

Beijing suffered a minor earthquake earlier this month but
Zhang said the stadium had been designed to resist tremors up
to 8.0 on the Richter scale, much bigger than the 5.1
registered on July 4.

The 3.13 billion yuan ($391.5 million) stadium will host
the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the athletics and
soccer finals for the Games.


Some of the scaffolding has been removed from the nearby
aquatic center, revealing the honeycomb steel structure into
which special membrane cushions will start to be fitted later
this month.

The 1.02 billion yuan center will host the swimming, diving
and water polo events.

"The external layer of the membrane should be finished by
the end of the year and the venue will be handed over at the
end of October 2007," said Wang Wubin, deputy manager of the

Beijing is building or refurbishing 31 venues in the city
for the Olympics, which will begin on August 8 2008.

The sailing events will be hosted at a new complex in
Qingdao with the equestrian events in Hong Kong.

The cities of Shanghai, Qinhuangdao and Tianjin will host
matches in the preliminary rounds of the soccer tournaments.

The first Olympic test events will take place next month at
the Qingdao sailing center and the Fengtai softball field in
the south of Beijing.