Beijing : With less than 10 months to go to the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, organisers say construction work on the facilities in the Chinese capital are proceeding according to plan.
“We are very happy with the progress. They are right on schedule with the construction,” said Kevan Gosper, vice-president of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) coordination commission, during a visit to the Olympic Stadium, nicknamed “bird’s nest”, and other facilities.
Construction for the 91,000-capacity stadium with its unusual, three dimensional bowl shape, so designed to allow optimal air circulation during the expected hot weather, will be complete by the end of March next year.
But the neighbouring water sports complex, lovingly called the “water cube”, as well as the other facilities are expected to be completed by this year’s end.
The plan may sound very ambitious, but the organisers are confident that the schedule can be adhered to.
“It can be done,” asserted Sun Wei Jia, chief of media operations in the organising committee. “The workers labour in shifts round the clock, seven days a week.”
The 17,000-seat water sports stadium will receive a specially designed, hi-tech ventilation system to prevent water condensation and also will be fitted with a transparent membrane as its outer wall.
The media interest in the Games has beaten all records. More than 5,600 journalists and photographers have been accredited by the IOC to cover the events, more than any previous Games.
However, the IOC has also voiced concerns about the expected hot and humid weather that typically prevails in Beijing in August, as well as the smog in the 17-million metropolis, according to Gosper.
Road traffic restriction trials in August this year only slightly improved the air pollution, but at least resulted in much better traffic flow.
Gosper is convinced that the measures, if rigorously maintained during the Games, will help to alleviate the otherwise daily traffic congestion.
“I don’t foresee any problems with transportation,” he said.
The capital’s long-neglected subway network also will be expanded prior to the Olympics.
Beijing’s mayor Wang Qi Shan saw the inauguration of a new 27-km subway line earlier this week as “a sign of (our) determination to give priority to the development (of the city’s) public transport infrastructure”.
By next year, the subway lines will be extended from the current 142 km to 200 km to provide access to all Olympic sports facilities.
The organisers have also received accolades for the athletes’ accommodation.
“The athletes will be more than pleased with the Olympic Village, which offers nice rooms with ample space and good comfort,” said Gerd Graus, an official German observer of the preparations.