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Christchurch Mayor’s group first foreigners allowed into new Olympic stadium in China

17 April 2008

From Diane Keenan who is with the Mayor's delegation in China

Christchurch’s delegation to China was yesterday the first official foreign group allowed into the new Olympic Stadium in Beijing following the highly secret laying of the track earlier this week.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker and his delegation were invited to visit the stadium by the chairman of one of the largest construction company’s in Beijing Mr Wang Zhi Guo who has a $25 million engineering contact for carrying out all the structural engineering work on the stadium. Mr Wang is visiting Christchurch next month to look at investment opportunities in the city as a result of the delegation’s visit.

Security staff at the complex said the delegation was given the early morning privilege of being the first foreign delegation in the world to visit after the track-laying because New Zealand was now seen as a “good friend” of China following last week’s signing of the Free Trade Agreement between the two countries.

The stadium, affectionately known in Beijing as “the bird’s nest”, is on target for completion in May when it will be handed over to the Olympic Organising committee – three months before the Beijing Olympics open in August.

This Friday (April 18) athletes will race along the new 20km avenue through the Olympic complex, while on the same day there will be another race starting in Tiananmen Square in central Beijing and finishing at the stadium.

 The stadium now only requires the finishing touches. An Italian company laid the track surface on Wednesday and the podium where athletes will receive their medals is already constructed. Journalists were yesterday working in the media benches which overlook the stadium where all 91,000 seats will be filled for the Opening Ceremony.

The delegation entered the stadium through the same pathway that competitors in the marathon will run through on August before making their final lap of the track. VIPs will also arrive through this entrance and will be taken up one of the stadium’s 24 elevators, past shiny gold coloured walls, to their lounge on the second level.

The lounge is already furnished with plush grey carpet and the royal blue sofas and chairs to be graced by leaders from around the world are in place. The view from this level suggests that such is the degree of readiness, the games could be held tomorrow.

Outside the stadium amid extremely tight security, the activity is frenetic. An army of workers scurrying like ants around the worksites are planting trees and laying grass and tiles, while others are building some of the large multi-story towers opposite the stadium which will house television broadcasting operations. Such is the scale of the operation that the army has its mobile first aid facilities on site.

A 7-Star hotel built in the shape of the Olympic torch overlooks the avenue dissecting the complex, while other impressive buildings include the pool complex whose blue-grey bubbled exterior fronting wall is a feature.

Next to the pool is the new National Indoor Stadium which will be the venue for a number of the Olympic sports.

Mr Wang told his Christchurch visitors that being part of the stadium project was not merely about business. “This is probably the biggest project we have been involved with and certainly the most prestigious. I feel extremely proud that I have been able to play a part in staging the Olympics,” he said. 

Bob Parker said China was one country in the world which could make such a massive project happen on time and within budget. “It’s a country that just gets things done. The Olympics are a focal point in this country. The average Chinese citizen is bursting with pride and anticipation. You can’t go around a corner anywhere without coming across the Olympic symbols and banners wishing all the athletes good luck.  The event will be China’s gift to the world,” he said.


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