Image: Beijing's Terminal 3
Wong Maye-e  /  AP
Members of the press wearing safety helmets enter Beijing's new Terminal 3 on Wednesday.
updated 9/12/2007 11:17:48 AM ET 2007-09-12T15:17:48

Beijing showed off its new multibillion-dollar airport terminal Wednesday — a mammoth structure of glass and steel with a gracefully sloping roof that the owners said is meant to impress visitors to China's capital for the 2008 Olympics.

Terminal 3 at the Beijing Capital International Airport is a centerpiece project for the Olympics designed to relieve the overloaded airport's other two terminals and accommodate the city's torrid growth for the next seven years, executives with the airport's state-run holding company said at a tour for foreign media.

The terminal, which will be opened for testing in February, is outfitted with a state-of-the-art-baggage handling system, a rail terminal to carry passengers into the city, and gates and a runway capable of handling Airbus' huge A380 superjumbo.

The terminal building alone cost $2.8 billion, and $4.6 billion was spent on all the related infrastructure added in, the executives said.

The terminal is an "important non-competition venue" for the Aug. 8-24, 2008, Olympics, said Zhang Zhizhong, general manager of Capital Airport Holding Co. He said it is intended to "give an excellent impression when visitors arrive at the airport."

Designed by British architect Norman Foster, the building attempts to combine traditional architectural elements with up-to-date technology. Its red columns and muted gold roof are meant to evoke Beijing's imperial palaces and temples while the $250 million baggage system, made by German engineering giant Siemens AG, can handle 19,000 pieces of luggage an hour, the executives said.

Beijing desperately needs a new airport, with the double-digit economic growth of recent years outstripping city planners' original projections and stressing the capital's infrastructure. The capital airport's second terminal, which opened eight years ago, quickly reached its limits, and long lines for check-in and flight delays.

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