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China's new National Stadium opens its doors
April 16, 2008
The iconic 3.5 billion yuan ($500.2 million) arena, which was started in December 2003 and completed 14 weeks behind schedule, will host the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the athletics and soccer finals at the Aug. 8-24 Games.
With 114 days to go until the opening ceremony, the finishing touches were still being applied. Workers were painting lines on the running track and some of the 91,000 seats had yet to be fixed in place.
Workers and the large band of volunteers were reluctant to talk to the media but several said they thought the structure "amazing".
From the inside, the interwoven steel structure that gives the stadium its nickname was largely hidden by a membrane that will keep the rain off many of the seats and prevent unsightly shadows from ruining television pictures on sunny days.
The sun was struggling to break through the Beijing smog and dust on Wednesday, a reminder of how much work remains to be done to ensure good air quality for the Games.
The roof that was in the original design was cut out of plans in 2004 as a cost-cutting measure and the Beijing meteorological office is experimenting with rain-prevention measures to stop wet weather spoiling the opening ceremony.
The stadium was supposed to have been finished along with the other venues by the end of 2007 but the completion date was first postponed to the end of March and then to the middle of April.
Organisers said that the complexity of preparing the stadium for what is expected to be a lavish opening ceremony on the evening of Aug. 8 was responsible for the delays.
It was the only significant delay in a building programme that presented a clear contrast with the last Summer Games in Athens, where the last licks of paint were being applied only days before the Games began.
There was no sign of where the Olympic cauldron will be placed. That, along with details of the opening ceremony, are among the best-kept secrets in China.
Officials confirmed in January that two workers had died during construction of the stadium, denying media reports that there had been at least 10 fatalities.
The first event to take place at the stadium is the IAAF men's 20-km walking test event on Friday. Sunday's Good Luck Beijing marathon will also finish at the Bird's Nest.
An athletics test event from May 22-25 will be the first thorough test of the stadium's ability to host top level track and field events.
After the Games, an auction will be held for naming rights that could result in a foreign company attaching its brand to the stadium.
Photograph: Getty Images | Text: Reuters