Promise of futuristic venues

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 September, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 September, 1993, 12:00am

THE centrepiece of Beijing's Olympic ambition will be the mammoth 100,000-seat stadium, which local tycoon and ''old friend of China'' Henry Fok Ying-tung has now offered to finance.

The futuristic stadium, which will host the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the athletics events, will be located on a huge plot of land set aside by the Beijing Government since the mid-1980s, when it first started planning for the 1990 AsianGames.

The plot, located nine kilometres north of the city centre, will house a new swimming complex, gymnasium, tennis courts, an equestrian park and a velodrome.

The stadium and swimming complex used for the Asian Games, adjacent to the new Olympic Centre, will be renovated and upgraded to meet international standards.

Beijing officials say the renovation is necessary in order to make every stadium a state-of-the-art facility.

However, many observers in the city say the Asian Games venues were built in such a hurry that defects are already starting to appear and that unless urgent work is carried out, they may not even be standing by the year 2000.

In all, 17 stadiums throughout the city will be repaired, renovated or expanded to meet International Olympic Committee (IOC) standards.

The Olympic Village will be located to the north of the main sports complex and will house up to 20,000 athletes, coaches and officials.

The 55-hectare site will include 16 high-rise apartment buildings, plus shopping, transport, recreational and religious facilities. There will also be a six-hectare garden, a training gymnasium, plus a 400-metre indoor training track.

Beijing's bid committee states that access from the village to all competition sites - with the exception of the Qinhuangdao Marine Sports Centre - will take less than 30 minutes.

However, given the massive increase in vehicular traffic on Beijing's roads in just the last year, many analysts say the Government may find it impossible to guarantee travel times, despite a new road network and special transport arrangements.

The new network, featuring a series of high-speed ring roads and a new six-lane freeway to the airport, is one of the most crucial elements in Beijing's bid.

Without a massive upgrading of the transport network, it will simply be impossible for the Games to go off without a hitch.

The new airport road, known as ''the number one gate to China'', was formally opened on September 14 and has dramatically reduced driving times from the airport to central Beijing from about 50 minutes to half-an-hour.

However, there is one drawback about the new highway. Being an elevated structure, it provides a sweeping view of the poverty-stricken Beijing countryside. Such unpleasant scenery was screened off from public view by thousands of trees that lined the oldtwo-lane airport road.

Plenty of similar cosmetic greenery will be required to hide the grim fringe areas of Beijing from the visiting eyes on the new highway.

Construction of the ring-road system is also well under way, but problems have already started cropping up.

The contra-flow system simply does not have fluidity and huge bottlenecks have been building up each day at major junctions.

Slow vehicles are also not forced to use the inside lanes, again leading to massive congestion at peak travel times.

The media centre for the Games will be located adjacent to the Olympic Village and the main sports arenas in the 2000 Beijing Olympic City.

According to the city's bid document, the centre will feature state-of-the-art satellite transmission services, a 700-seat communal office with a close-circuit television system with simultaneous translation facilities, data processing, telecommunications and photograph-relaying systems.

However, it is unclear how much access journalists will have to the athletes and coaches themselves.

The media centre will be separated from the Olympic Village by a high wall and, if the Asian Games are anything to go by, access will be strictly controlled.

Security, in fact, is one of the highlights of the city's bid document which details no less than 21 specialist command groups, including the anti-explosive inspection division, the aerial support command and the security command for football preliminaries.

The bid document states: ''There is good public security and stable social order in Beijing.

In 1991, 19,766 criminal cases were registered in the city - a rate of 190 cases for every 100,000 people. It is one of the world's largest cities boasting the lowest crime rate.''