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Beijing construction hits snags but still on schedule

Written by: Staff

BEIJING, Mar 28 (Reuters) Construction of the venues for the 2008 Beijing Olympics has hit problems but organisers are confident they will still be delivered on schedule at the end of next year.

Twenty of the 31 competition venues in Beijing are under construction with work well underway on the centrepiece National Stadium and the revolutionary Aquatics centre.

''In the past we thought we were ahead of schedule but there have been some problems so we are now making steady progress on schedule,'' Wang Zhiyuan, the chief economist of the Beijing 2008 construction office, told a news conference today.

Construction office chief Jun Yuan denied that steel shortages --- 110,000 tonnes are required for the National Stadium alone -- were delaying the project and said the venues would be delivered on time.

''All the projects will be finished by the end of 2007, some of them by August or September 2007 to allow for testing,'' he said.

''We are facing two problems,'' Jun added. ''We have adopted new technologies unprecedented in China and applying these technologies is causing difficulties.

''There are also some problems on the technology resource side which we are trying to tackle.'' Jun said the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) was placing great emphasis on the human side of the Games and the venues needed to reflect this.

''The basic hardware of the buildings will be ready but we must also furnish the venues to embody the human aspect of the Beijing Olympic Games and in this aspect we have much work to do,'' he said.

''The details will decide whether we will succeed or fail and we are paying a great deal of attention to this important element of hosting such a big event.'' ''It will not only look good but be functional too.'' A tour of what will be the heart of the 2008 Olympic Games showed that the building of the National Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies will be held, was making good progress.

''BIRD'S NEST'' Sixteen of the hollow steel trusses that will hold in place the ''Bird's Nest'' roof of the 3.03 billion yuan (377.8 million dollars) National Stadium are already clinging to the side of the concrete structure.

Once the remaining six trusses are in place, the complicated task of fitting the interlocking pieces together, forming a dramatic twisting superstructure atop the venue, will begin.

The equally ambitious 1.02 billion yuan Aquatic centre is less recognisable with only a skeleton of the honeycomb steel structure visible through the scaffolding enshrouding a huge rectangular block.

Eventually some of the 17,000 workers currently employed on the Beijing projects will stretch a membrane over the whole of the exterior of the building giving a final effect of water flowing down the walls.

Keeping water out of the National Stadium for the opening ceremony is exercising minds among organisers after they decided last year to abandon plans for a retractable roof for cost reasons.

''We are considering what to do if it rains...'' said Jun.

''But I'm really hoping August 8, 2008 will be a propitious day.'' REUTERS PM DS1203

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