Government punishes 183 people reponsible safety breaches, but maintains no 'major' accidents occured on the Olympic site

Officials in China have announced a crackdown on construction-related accidents, despite claiming that there have been no major accidents at Olympic sites.

Earlier this week the Chinese government said it had punished 183 people responsible for five major accidents in coal mines and construction sites around China. According to the state-owned Xinhua News the punishments ranged from demotions to life imprisonment.

The move signals an increasing awareness in China that poor health and safety could damage the reputation of the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

China's senior safety inspector, Li Yizhong, said onTuesday that he was launching an investigation into reports that workers may have been killed building the Beijing National Stadium.

The Sunday Times had earlier reported that 10 or more workers were killed during the construction of the stadium.

Sun Weide, spokesperson for the Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games, maintained that there have been no "major" construction accidents at Olympic sites.

In a separate development in December, a local planning director in China was sentenced to death last month after admitting to have received bribes from developers.

Wan Zheng, former deputy head of Yuzhong District in south west China, had accepted bribes totalling 9.66m Yuan (£681,000) between 1999 and 2007. The payments were exchanged for preferential favours on land acquisitions and construction projects.

The court gave the planner added a two year suspension to the death sentence for showing remorse and admitting to the crimes.