Wednesday, May 21, 2008

China picks up the Olympic torch again


THE Olympic torch resumes its journey through China today after a three-day period of national mourning for victims of the earthquake that killed 40000 .

The torch relay will resume at a container port in eastern China’s seaport city of Ningbo, travelling through the city and across the Hangzhou Bay bridge to Jiaxing. Later today it is to be moved by vehicle to the country’s commercial centre of Shanghai.

So far, the torch has had a smooth relay in mainland China, uninterrupted by the protests that dogged parts of its international tour. But organisers scaled down the celebratory tone of the relay after the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that struck central China on May 12, flattening entire communities. The torch relay last stopped in Hangzhou, a scenic city to the west of Ningbo.

China’s leadership has sought to use the Olympics, which begin on August 8 in Beijing, to showcase the country’s achievements and rally national unity.

The torch relay, which has travelled to all corners of the globe , has played a key role in the build-up to the Games. Organisers initially resisted changes in the relay, which corporate sponsors have paid millions of dollars to fund.

But public pressure for a moratorium on the event prompted organisers to adjust details of the relay. Some legs of the run were shortened and donations for victims have been collected along the way.

The torch was to remain in Shanghai on Friday and Saturday, and then travel on to neighbouring Jiangsu province. It is due to arrive on June 13 in the sprawling Yangtze River city of Chongqing and enter neighbouring Sichuan province, site of the quake’s epicentre, two days later.

The torch returns to Beijing on August 6, two days before the opening ceremony.

During the three-day mourning period, flags were flying at half- mast and entertainment events were cancelled. Television networks were running only news programmes .

Authorities have reported more than 40000 dead, with at least 10000 more deaths likely, and 32000 people missing from the disaster. — Sapa- AP

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