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Page last updated at 14:39 GMT, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 15:39 UK

China stadium nears finishing line

By James Reynolds
BBC News, Beijing

Beijing Olympic National Stadium (file Oct 07)
The stadium took 52 months to build and cost 3.5bn yuan (254m; $501)

You cannot miss it - it looks like a giant pile of grey spaghetti, ready and waiting just in case Gulliver decides to drop by for lunch.

Beijing's new Olympic Stadium - known here as the Bird's Nest - is meant to catch your eye and preferably keep it as well.

While it was being built, security guards stopped outsiders from getting in to have a look.

But this morning, for the first time, foreign reporters were allowed in to have a peep.

As you walk into the stadium, you notice the finishing touches.

The lamps along the pathways are designed to look like mini bird's nests.

Trees have been planted, and workers are busy laying down fresh turf.

Volunteers in white T-shirts point you through concrete tunnels.

The home straight

Inside the Bird's Nest itself, everything is almost ready.

Numbers have been painted onto the red and white seats.

Some of the seats are covered in dust - others have just been washed.

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A tour inside Beijing's 'Bird's Nest' Olympic stadium

But there is one set which is still covered in plastic - the V...V...VIP section - right in the centre of the middle tier, in front of the home strait.

At the opening ceremony on the 8th of August, all attention will be on this section.

It is at this point that we will finally be able to tell which presidents and prime ministers have decided to come, and which have decided to stay away.

But none of that matters much to the volunteers inside the stadium.

"This is a big event for my country," says Zhang Qiong, who is a 19-year-old archaeology student from Beijing University.

"I hope it will be successful. And I feel that it is my duty to make a contribution. I think the Bird's Nest is great. Chinese people respect grand buildings."

Flags raised

At one end of the stadium, workers practise one of the most important moments of any Games - the bit when the medal-winners' flags are raised to the top of the pole.

They get it to the top each time.

Zhang Qiong
I think the Bird's Nest is great. Chinese people respect grand buildings
Zhang Qiong

On the athletics track, two men walk slowly along one of the lanes, laying out markers every metre or so, checking that everything complies with international standards.

At the end of the home straight, a man in a black T-shirt stands next to a red box.

Inside the box, you can see a red beam. This is the photo-finish equipment.

It is set up exactly where the finishing line will be.

But there is one more thing to do. Someone has to paint the actual white line across the track.

Once that is done, the stadium should be ready for business.

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