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BEIJING - Beijing opens the doors this week to its latest Olympic creation - a massive glass-and-steel airport terminal with a gently sloping roof that will welcome visitors to the Summer Games.

Fronted by pillars of deep imperial red, Terminal 3 at Beijing Capital International Airport boasts polished floors and a high ceiling dotted with triangular skylights.

The huge, airy interior will have 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.

The terminal is a project designed to relieve the overloaded airport's other two terminals and accommodate expected rapid growth in the number of visitors to Beijing.

The terminal is "a safe and efficient non-competition venue for the much anticipated Beijing Olympics Games," said Dong Zhiyi, deputy general manager of the Capital Airport Holding Co.

Six international and domestic airlines will begin operating in the terminal Friday, while others will switch over from the other two terminals in March. The Olympics start August 8.

On Tuesday, the sound of hammering and the buzz of electric saws could be heard as workers rushed to put finishing touches on shops and other facilities. Glass windows and doors were polished, shelves were stocked and plastic covers were torn off chairs behind check-in counters. Electricians worked on last-minute wiring as signs with airline logos lay on the sidewalk.

Designed by British architect Norman Foster, the building attempts to combine traditional architectural elements with up-to-date technology. Its red columns and matte gold roof are meant to evoke Beijing's imperial palaces and temples.

The floor space of the terminal and ground transportation center covers 1.3 million square meters (14 million square feet).

China's capital needed a new terminal even without the Olympics, with double-digit economic growth rapidly outpacing infrastructure expansion plans. Dong said he expects the whole airport to receive 64 million visitors this year. That is up from 50 million last year and 20 million in 2000.

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