BEIJING - Organizers of the 2008 Beijing Olympics have broken ground for a 100,000-seat stadium and plan to have all their major building projects finished more than 18 months before the Games begin, officials said Thursday.
The plans are in striking contrast to the experience of Athens, which is racing to complete venues months before the start of the Games there this summer.
In addition to the stadium, Beijing has begun work on a $120 million swimming center and will be building 13 other sports venues, Liu Jingmin, a Beijing deputy mayor, said at a news conference held beside the huge pit dug for the stadium's foundation.
"The Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee will finish its construction work by the end of 2006. That will be more than 18 months before the beginning of the Games. So we will be able to do test runs and have athletes come in for testing," Liu said.
Most of the $3.2 billion construction cost of the Olympic work is coming from private investors, he said. The entire cost of the swimming center will be met by donations from wealthy ethnic Chinese abroad.
Amid a flurry of activity to tighten security for the Athens Games, Liu moved to assure athletes and tourists planning to attend the 2008 Olympics of their safety.
"Beijing is one of the most secure cities in the world," he said. "I personally believe the Beijing 2008 Olympics will be among the most secure Olympic Games."
The communist government regards the Olympics as a major matter of national pride and is pouring vast amounts of resources and skills into organizing them. Much of the capital's construction boom is pinned to the widespread goal of creating a showcase city by the time the Olympics arrive.
The city expects to spend $24.2 billion on new subway lines, roads and other facilities by 2008. Many of them are being built with an eye toward making the Games a smoother experience for visitors, said Liu, who is also the executive vice president of the Olympic organizing committee.
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