China, IOC begin series of meetings over 2008 Games, amid concern over fast pace

BEIJING – The International Olympic Committee and Chinese officials began a series of meetings yesterday to assess Beijing’s preparations for the 2008 Olympics. The closed-door meetings between the IOC’s Coordination Commission and Beijing Olympic organizers are scheduled to dig into the details of the Chinese capital’s efforts to stage an Olympiad, from ticketing systems to plans for the Olympic torch relay. Reporters were allowed to sit in on the first few minutes of the meeting. In opening the four-day session, Beijing organizing committee head Liu Qi updated commission members on plans to make more hotel rooms available to accommodate the swell of media expecting to cover the 2008 Games. The visit is the commission’s fifth to Beijing. On their last trip in May and June, commission members said Beijing’s preparations were on track – but a little too far ahead of schedule. Unlike the 2004 Olympics in Athens, where contractors worked until the last minute to finish the sports venues, Beijing has raced ahead with an aggressive construction timetable. IOC officials urged Beijing to slow down construction, saying that finishing too early would lead to higher costs for maintaining the expensive facilities. This time, commission members are expected to focus on Beijing’s coordination with other Chinese cities co-hosting some of the sporting events. Commission members are to inspect the eastern port city of Qingdao, which will host the sailing competition. (AP)

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