Two Beijing Olympic venues completed

Two of 12 new Beijing Olympic venues have been completed and could be handed over to officials as early as next week.

Wu Jingjun, chief engineer for the Beijing 2008 project construction office, said Wednesday that venues for rowing and shooting were ready - 13 months before the games begin.

"These two are already completed and awaiting assessment and commissioning," Wu said.

Wu also repeated an earlier forecast, saying the 91,000-seat National Stadium, known as the "Bird's Nest," would not be completed until March. The centerpiece of the games, it is expected to be finished five months before the opening ceremony.

Unlike the 2004 Athens Olympics, venue construction in Beijing has been largely trouble free and praised by the International Olympic Committee. In fact, the IOC stepped in two years ago and told builders to slow down.

The Olympic venues are a small part of a massive plan to modernize Beijing, estimated to cost between US$40-60 billion.

The rowing venue, located north of the Beijing airport, will host a test event - the World Rowing Junior Championships - beginning Aug. 8. That date marks exactly one year until the games begin.

The rowing championships will be one of 11 tests events in Beijing in August, a time for organizers to assess their transportation systems, technology and logistics.

Except for the National Stadium, Wu said all Olympic venues - 31 are in Beijing and six are located outside the capital - would be completed by the end of the year. Of the 31 Beijing venues, 12 are new, 11 are older buildings being refurbished, and eight are temporary structures.

Wu said a fire on July 2, which damaged the new 8,000-seat table tennis venue at Peking University, did no serious structural damage. He said a test event set there for December would be held.

"There is no negative impact on the main structure," Wu said. "I think the fire will have a limited impact on the test event."

Wu also downplayed the bankruptcy in May of a German subcontractor working on the National Stadium. The subcontractor, Covertex, was reported to be doing roof work on the new stadium.

"I can assure you that the issues around the bankruptcy were cleared up by the end of June," Wu said. "There is no negative impact on the construction of the Bird's Nest. I can assure you of that."