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Beijing opens new airport terminalEdit

February 29, 2008

BEIJING (AP) -- Beijing opened its newest airport terminal Friday, a gargantuan glass-and-steel creation built to accommodate a surge in visitors for the Summer Olympics.

Dozens of passengers from the first domestic flight to arrive at Terminal 3 -- an hourlong jaunt from Shandong province in China's east -- were welcomed with flower bouquets. A British Airways flight from London landed a few hours later.

A group of 10 musicians played string instruments at an opening ceremony attended by Chinese officials.

The terminal, its runway and most of the related infrastructure were built in just under four years, with a compressed timetable to ensure it was ready for the Aug. 8-24 Olympics.

The building's deep red pillars and matte gold roof are meant to evoke Beijing's imperial palaces and temples. Triangular skylights which open out onto the gently sloping roof give an airy feeling to the terminal, which houses 64 Western and Chinese restaurants, 90 retail shops, and a state-of-the-art-baggage handling system.

A high-speed commuter train will whisk passengers into the city, while the runway is capable of handling Airbus' huge A380 superjumbo.

At a news conference earlier this week, Dong Zhiyi, deputy general manager of the Capital Airport Holding Co., declared the project "the pride of the Chinese nation."

Beijing desperately needed a new terminal even without the Summer Games, with double-digit economic growth rapidly outpacing infrastructure expansion plans.

The airport's second terminal, which opened eight years ago, quickly reached its limits. Long lines for check-in and flight delays are common.

Airport officials have said that at least 64 million visitors are expected to come through this year, up from 50 million last year and 20 million in 2000.

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