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10 December 2023

Olympic organisers deny deaths in `Bird's Nest' construction

By Agencies
Beijing Olympic organizers have denied charges that at least 10 workers have died while working to build the 91,000-seat National Stadium.

Known as the "Bird's Nest", the iconic venue will host the opening and closing ceremonies and is sure to become the architectural symbol of the August 8-24 Olympics.

The Times newspaper of London reported last weekend that "China has systematically covered up the accidental deaths" since construction began on the project in 2003.

Sun Weide, a spokesman for the organising committee, said the report was "not true."

"At the moment, construction at the national stadium is going smoothly and according to plan," Sun said.

"Beijing municipal government and BOCOG both attached great importance to the safety of the Olympic venue construction. When it comes to the Olympic venue construction, safety always comes first."

Li Yizhong, minister of the State Administration of Work Safety, said he was unaware of work-related deaths on the project but promised to investigate.

The Times said Chinese authorities have covered up the deaths and doled out large compensation payments to guarantee the silence of fellow workers who witnessed the accidents. The Times said its information came from dozens of interviews over six months.

The article quoted several unnamed workers who said they witnessed deaths on the job. Most of the workers are unskilled migrants from rural China who earn about $150 (Dh550) a month.

One worker from China's northeast Shandong province gave this account of a fellow worker plunging to his death.

"He slipped off the boards, the safety rope broke, and he fell 30 yards to the ground from the scaffolding and died," the worker said. "He was only 33 years old and had a pretty young wife and a lovely son. I saw her when she came to get his things and collect his body."

"People said his wife got more than 200,000 yuan ($28,000; Dh102,200). We don't know exactly because the negotiations were secret. At least his wife and son were lucky. (AP)