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Beijing Begins Construction on Main Venue for 2008 Olympics - 2003-12-24

Beijing has kicked off construction on its main stadium for the 2008 Olympics Wednesday, launching a three-year building program for the event.

Government officials, as well as investors from Taiwan and Hong Kong, were on hand to break ground for the $360 million National Stadium, which will be the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies and for track and field events.

The Chinese press has already dubbed the 80,000-seat stadium the "bird's nest" because of its giant latticework structure.

Construction also began Wednesday on the 17,000-seat National Swimming Center, where Olympic swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming events will be held. Beijing also plans to build a shooting range and a cycling stadium for the Olympics and hopes to finish all construction in 2007.

Organizers say they will spend billions of dollars on the Beijing games, not just building sports facilities but also cleaning up the city and expanding roads and public transportation.