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Beijing's Olympic Building Boom

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We've been reading about China's construction plans for years, and wondered whether all those huge buildings will be ready in time for the 2008 Olympics. Now those buildings are opening for business, one by one.

Beijing Airport

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Beijing Capital International Airport's new Terminal 3 will officially open tomorrow (February 29th). It is the world's largest airport building with over ten million square feet of interior space. In fact, it is the second largest building in the world! Designed by Foster+Partners, it went from plans to opening day in less than four years. Ten villages were displaced to make room for the terminal. But don't blame the Olympics; the old airport configuration was already straining under the load. Even this dragon-shaped design will be inadequate in another ten years or so.

Beijing National Stadium

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The Beijing National Stadium is expected to be completed next month. Designed by the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron, it is sometimes called the "Birds Nest", for obvious reasons. It has an official capacity of 91,000, but will likely hold 100,000 for the Olympic opening ceremonies. (image credit: Tee Meng)

National Aquatics Center

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The National Aquatics Center was completed last month, and has already hosted the 2008 Swimming China Open. The "Water Cube" seats 17,000 people. The Aquatics Center was designed by PTW Architects, CSCEC International Design, and Arup. The striking exterior is made from translucent Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, or ETFE, a strong, lightweight plastic that looks like glass, and is estimated to save 30% in energy costs over a traditional design.

Olympic Basketball Gymnasium

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The Olympic Basketball Gym opened last month in Wukesong, west of Beijing. It covers 63,000 square meters and can seat 18,000 spectators. China's basketball fever is largely due to the success of Yao Ming, who must sit out the rest of the NBA season with a stress fracture. Whether he will be able to play for the home team in August is now up in the air.

Olympic Green Tennis Center

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The Olympic Green Tennis Center was completed in October, 2007. The three main courts look like flowers, with twelve sections of seating surrounding each court. The sections are separated by open vents to help circulate fresh air, which will be pumped in at the bottom of the stands. The main court will seat 10,000 spectators; the other two will seat 4,000 and 2,000 respectively. In addition to the three large courts, there are seven smaller courts that will host preliminary rounds and six training courts.

There are many more new venues specifically for Olympic competition and housing. You can see the art, and a few current photographs, at the Olympics site. There are also construction projects to accomodate the many visitors expected in August.

National Grand Theater

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The National Grand Theater opened in 2007. The egg-shaped opera house with three auditoriums is made of titanium and glass and is surrounded by water. It seats 6,500 people. Designed by French architect Paul Andreu, the theater construction cost 50% more than estimated. Construction overruns and high maintenance costs will mean the Chinese government will have to subsidize the theater's activites for several years at least. See more pictures here.

CCTV Headquarters

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The CCTV Headquarters building was designed by Rem Koolhass of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). The building is shaped like two Ls that are joined at the top, but the nickname that stuck is "the Z building." When completed (supposedly in time for the Olympics), the 54 story building will stand 755 feet tall. Besides CCTV offices, the building will house a hotel, a visitor's center, a theater, and exhibition space.

Hotels

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China is also building at least 109 new hotels to accomodate Olympic travelers. Pictured is the 400-room Langham Place Beijing Capital Airport Hotel, scheduled to open in mid-2008. The biggest hotel project is the Beijing Marriott Hotel City Wall, with 615 rooms.

15,000 people have been relocated to make room for the Olympic venues. Six people have died in the construction projects, including two at the National Stadium. One project, a shooting range, was delayed over the discovery of imperial-era tombs. Many ancient artifacts were discovered as bulldozers broke ground at several other sites. The Olympics begin August 8th.

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Animals
Watch a Rogue Pet Dog Interrupt a Russian News Anchor on Air
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Last week, a Russian news broadcast briefly went to the dogs after its host was startled by a surprise co-anchor: a friendly black canine that wandered on set, announced its presence with a loud bark, and climbed onto her desk.

 

As TODAY reports, Mir24 TV anchor Ilona Linarte went off script for a few minutes, telling viewers "I've got a dog here. What is this dog doing in the studio?" After the initial shock wore off, she gave her furry guest a tepid welcome, patting its head as she gently pushed it off the desk. ("I actually prefer cats,'' Linarte remarked. "I'm a cat lady.")

Linarte’s query was answered when the TV station announced that the dog had accompanied another show’s guest on set, and somehow got loose. That said, rogue animals have a proud tradition of crashing live news broadcasts around the world, so we’re assuming this won’t be the last time a news anchor is upstaged by an adorable guest star (some of which have better hair than them).

[h/t TODAY]

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Falcon Heavy and Dragon. Image credit: SpaceX via Wikimedia Commons // CC0 1.0
SpaceX Is Sending Two Private Citizens Around the Moon
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Falcon Heavy and Dragon. Image credit: SpaceX via Wikimedia Commons // CC0 1.0

Two members of the public are set to take an historic trip around the Moon, according to an announcement from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. As The Verge reports, the anonymous private citizens have already placed substantial deposits on the commercial space flight.

The private spacecraft company SpaceX revealed on Monday that the Falcon Heavy rocket will be launching with its Crew Dragon spacecraft in late 2018. The mission will consist of a circumnavigation of the Moon, passing over the body’s surface before traveling farther into space and returning to Earth. In total, the trip will cover 300,000 to 400,000 miles and take a week to complete.

A noteworthy part of the plan is the human cargo that will be on board. Instead of professional astronauts, the craft will carry two paying customers into space. The passengers, who’ve yet to be named, will both need to pass several fitness tests before they're permitted to make the journey. According to The Verge, Musk said the customers are “very serious” and that the cost of the trip is “comparable” to that of a crewed mission to the International Space Station. The goal for SpaceX is to eventually send one or two commercial flights into space each year, which could account for 10 to 20 percent of the company’s earnings.

[h/t The Verge]

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