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Race on for £14bn Beijing jackpot

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NEWS

Top British architects are jostling to build the Beijing Olympic Park and upgrade the city's infrastructure in what is rapidly becoming one of the biggest opportunities for designers in decades.

HOK Sport and WML + Woods Bagot are already holding top-level discussions with the Beijing Olympic Games Bid Committee (BOBICO), while other major players including Arup Associates have expressed interest.

WML + Woods Bagot, which was heavily involved in building the Sydney 2000 Olympic complex, is bullish about its chances.

'We will be steaming into the city - it's an obvious choice given our experience in Asia and Australia. Any practice involved in stadia should have Beijing on its radar. Discussions are now taking place to demonstrate our experience.

We know the Asian market very well, ' said WML + Woods Bagot's director of architecture Stephan Reinke.

BOBICO is sinking US$2 billion (£1.42 billion) into an Olympic Park comprising 22 new sports venues and 15 refurbished facilities - many of which are a legacy from the 1990 Asia Games.

The Olympic stadium project alone is believed to be worth US$250m (£178.5 million).

But the park is only part of a wider US$20 billion (£14.2 billion) construction programme which is up for grabs. The Chinese government has pledged to build 200km of new roads and five new metro lines to get more people on to public transport in time for the games.

A 140km light railway running into the heart of the Olympic Park is included in the package, along with new hotels, offices and retail outlets Crucially, the powerful People's Republic Institute of Architecture, China's combined equivalent of the ARB and RIBA, will play a central role in deciding which foreign practices secure contracts.

Although the bidding process has yet to be finalised by the International Olympic Committee, foreign architects will probably be forced to strike partnerships with Chinese practices to stand a chance of winning business - a condition which mirrors that of the Asia Games.

Architects will also face quarterly crossexamination in front of BOBICO to ensure the construction timetable and budgets remain on track. Beijing Olympic Bid executive vice president Liu Jingmin said: 'We recognise and welcome the need for accountability. Our time line will confirm our commitment to adhere to all venue construction by 2007.'

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