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IOC satisfied with Beijing Games progress

Written by: Staff

SEOUL, Apr 3 (Reuters) Preparations for the Beijing 2008 Olympics are on track, with construction of all venues underway more than two years before the start of the Games, the International Olympic Committee said today.

''BOCOG (Beijing Games Organising Committee) shows steady and strong involvement and achieves good progress in all fields of Games preparation,'' Hein Verbruggen, the IOC's chief inspector for the Beijing Games, said in a written statement.

The statement was distributed during a meeting of the association of National Olympic Committees.

''We therefore look to the path to 2008 with great confidence,'' he said.

Verbruggen praised Beijing's ''strong'' management team and said construction was going according to plan.

''Work on major transport infrastructure is also progressing well,'' he said.

With a current operational budget of about 2 billion dollar, Beijing has also earmarked more than a staggering US billion to improve the city's infrastructure and tackle pollution before the opening ceremony in August 2008.

Games officials confirmed the cost of the operational budget would be higher than the estimated amount in the bid, which was about 1.6 billion dollar.

''The preparations have been going smoothly and well on schedule,'' Tu Mingde, BOCOG president assistant, told Reuters.

He said all venues would be completed around the end of 2007 to allow time for testing but added the Games cost would also rise.

The first two test events -- softball and sailing -- will be held during the summer.

''It (operational budget) will be much higher than the amount we had in the bid file,'' he said, refusing to speculate on the percentage of increase.

Tu said Beijing's marketing plan was already close to meeting its target with 11 international sponsors, 11 domestic sponsors and nine suppliers signed up.

Tu recently said the Games would not burden the Chinese taxpayers as they would be self-funding and would not divert funds from reforms aimed at helping the country's rural poor.

Reuters PDS BD1532

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