Olympic games in China: officials confirm six workers’ deaths

A Chinese official said six workers have been killed during the construction of Olympic venues in the past three years. The statement appears to be the first time Beijing has acknowledged fatalities in the series of construction projects under way for the August Olympics. Mei fong, journalist of the Wall Street Journal, reports. 

China’s government is under media scrutiny as it prepares to host the event. The question of worker deaths and injuries during preparations has been seen by some observers as a test of Beijing’s pledges to improve transparency ahead of the Games.

Officials at the Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games last week denied an article in Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper that alleged that Chinese authorities had covered up the deaths of 10 or more construction workers at the Beijing National Stadium, the main staging site for the 2008 Games. The committee, known as Bocog, said the article was false and maintained all Olympic sites had excellent safety records.

Ding Zhenkuan, deputy chief of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Work Safety, said at a news conference that six workers have been killed during construction for the Olympics. Mr. Ding said two of the workers died during construction of the National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest for its metal lattice frame.

Asked about the Sunday Times article, Mr. Ding responded that: “On behalf of the organizers, I would like to make it clear that there was no such case that 10 people died on the Bird’s Nest.” He later said that two fatalities had occurred, one in 2006 and one in 2007. He said four more construction fatalities occurred in other Olympic venues, though he didn’t specify which sites. In addition, four workers were injured — including one serious injury requiring hospitalization — in the past three years, he said.

Bocog officials have repeatedly said no “major accidents” have occurred at Olympics venues. Mr. Ding explained yesterday that a workplace accident is classified as “major” if it causes three or more fatalities.

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