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  • Countdown Beijing: $1.5B for Green Olympics


    Beijing creates new green space for 2008. 
    Beijing will spend $1.5 billion dollars to improve the city's environment this year, a top city official says.

    The city and district governments, companies and non-governmental organizations will all contribute to Beijing's environmental efforts in 2007, said Lu Jianjun, head of the Beijing 2008 Environmental Construction Headquarters Office.

    Environmental renovation efforts will cover all areas of Beijing in 2007, focusing on major streets and other key areas around the Olympic sites, Lu said.

    Dozens of urban villages, which were home mainly to poor migrants, were demolished last year to improve the look of Beijing. City officials said they created 1.5 million square meters of new green space in 2006.

    Beijing's air pollution is one of the few areas with which the IOC has publicly expressed concern.

    Cost Over-runs "no problem," Construction Official Says

    Some 2008 construction projects have reported cost over-runs but they will not affect progress on Olympic venues, says the new official brought in after the sacking of a former Beijing vice mayor for corruption.

    "We are strengthening the supervision and regulation in terms of the venue construction here in Beijing," said Xu Bo, deputy director of the Beijing 2008 Project Construction Headquarters.

    "The actual expenses are a little bit higher than some construction companies expected at the very beginning of the bidding, so we keep a close watch on the latest news in this regard," Xu said.

    BOCOG and the city government have "no worries" about over-runs affecting the construction schedule and are confident that all venues will be finished as planned by the end of 2007, he said.

    "Generally speaking, we have confidence because at the very beginning we selected contractors who were large or mid-sized companies with a sound professional capacity to fulfill the projects," he said.

    Xu joined BOCOG from the ministry of construction following the dismissal of Beijing vice mayor Liu Zhihua last year.

    Israeli Premier Visits Olympic Sites

    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has visited the Olympic Stadium, aquatics center and the site of the Olympic village.

    "You are going to have the most spectacular Olympic Games ever," state media quoted Olmert as writing in the visitors' book at the exhibition hall near the main Olympic sites.

    "I wish you on behalf of the people of Israel, that the spirit of friend
    All construction will finish on time, says BOCOG. 
    ship and good competition will mark this event," he said.

    Olmert said Beijing's Olympic venues were "really amazing" and that he was confident they would be finished on time.

    BOCOG president Liu Qi led China's most powerful group of government and business leaders to visit Israel last November.

    Liu met the heads of the Israeli Olympic committee and business leaders in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. His visit was linked to "several bids by Israeli companies to participate in the construction of the Olympic village," the Israeli government said.

    English Weekly "Olympian" Launched

    The state-run English language newspaper China Daily has launched the Olympian, an internationally distributed eight-page weekly devoted to the 2008 Games.

    The tabloid-size color weekly aims to offer readers a "comprehensive and close access to the Beijing Games, the preparations and the people involved in making it a success," China Daily said.

    The editors plan to expand the weekly to 16 pages at the end of 2007 and then to a 48-page daily during 2008 Games.

    Reporting from Beijing by Bill Smith

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