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Beijing denies 10 deaths at Bird's Nest

BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing organizers on Monday denied a report that 10 workers had died during the construction of the showpiece stadium for the 2008 Olympics, which start in 200 days.

A British newspaper reported on Sunday that China had covered up the accidental deaths of at least 10 workers since construction of the $400-million National Stadium, nicknamed the Bird’s Nest, began in 2003.

“The report by the Sunday Times that 10 people have died in the construction of the National Stadium is not true,” said Sun Weide, spokesman for the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG).

Sun referred questions as to whether there had been any fatalities on the site of the National Stadium to the 2008 Construction Office. No one at that office was available for comment.

“At the moment construction has been going well and according to plan,” Sun added. “The Beijing municipality and BOCOG attach great importance to safety in the construction of the venues.”

The 91,000-seater stadium is the only one of the 36 Olympic venues in China not completed by the end of last year and is scheduled for completion by the end of March.

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It will host the opening and closing ceremonies as well as athletics and soccer at the August 8-24 Games.

Sunday’s report said the “conservative estimate” of 10 deaths “was reached by comparing numerous accounts of witnesses who worked at the site in different periods”.

The stadium earned its nickname because of the interwoven steel trusses that encase the concrete bowl of the arena. The design means many of the construction crew often have to work at great heights.

The building of a big stadium without any fatalities is unusual and at least one worker has died during the construction of the main arenas at the last three Summer Games.

“We have taken into account safety, quality, timeline, function and cost in the project,” he said. “We have taken resolute measures to ensure the quality of the project.”

Some 17,000 workers, mainly migrants from poorer provinces outside the Chinese capital, were working on Olympic projects at the height of construction.

Editing by Jeremy Laurence