World News

Beijing says 2 died in Bird's Nest construction

BEIJING (Reuters) - Two workers died during the construction of the showpiece stadium for this year’s Olympic Games and not the 10 reported last week, Beijing officials said on Monday.

A British newspaper article last week accused China of covering up the accidental deaths of at least 10 workers during the construction of the $400 million National Stadium, nicknamed the “Bird’s Nest”.

“There were two deaths in the Bird’s Nest, one in 2006 and one in 2007,” Ding Zhenkuan, deputy chief of the Beijing Bureau of Work Safety, told a news conference.

There was also one serious injury and three lighter injuries, Ding said.

China’s Minister of the State Administration of Work Safety, Li Yizhong, last Wednesday said he would order an investigation into the Sunday Times report. If there had been any cover-up of fatal accidents, he said, those responsible would be punished.

Ground was broken on the 91,000-seat stadium in 2003 and it was the only one of the 36 Olympic venues in China not completed by the end of last year.

Scheduled to be completed by the end of March, it will host the opening and closing ceremonies as well as athletics and soccer at the August 8-24 Games.

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

In 2007, a total of 101,480 Chinese died in workplace accidents -- including 81,649 deaths from road accidents.

Some 17,000 workers, mainly migrants from poorer provinces surrounding Beijing, were working on the Olympic venues at the height of construction.

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Alex Richardson