Centenarian loses bid for Olympic stardom

By Xie Fang (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-09-01 08:55

Centenarian Cao Zuozheng will be disappointed if she learns that her application to be a torchbearer for the 2008 Beijing Olympics has been turned down.

Last week, the 103-year-old Beijinger, as the only candidate from her residential community, was recommended to a higher authority in Beijing's Dongcheng District.

Her whole family had kept their fingers crossed that Cao could become the oldest of the 21,880 torchbearers selected across the world.

"We appreciate Cao's wish. But in reality, she won't be a torchbearer due to her health condition," Li Hua, director of Jingshan sub-district office, told China Daily.

According to Li, the office has received eight recommendations, but only one of these can be passed to a higher selection body.

She refused to reveal any details about how they made the decision, except for saying "the one we have finally chosen is a Beijing model worker".

Xiao Xinhua, the youngest of Cao's four children, felt sad at hearing the news.

However, she didn't dare inform Cao as "it will be a shock to someone who has such a great passion for the Games".

Xiao argued her mother has no health problems.

The 103-year-old started exercising in 2004 to get fit enough to be a torchbearer.

"If she were not healthy enough, how could we put her at risk by applying for the position?" she asked.

"I personally believe that one centenarian torchbearer is more meaningful than 100 model workers."

She said she would try to speak to the Dongcheng District Torch Relay Centre to see if there was any chance of realizing her mother's dream.

An official from the Beijing Torch Relay Center earlier said that they don't have the power to put Cao on the list as they have to abide by a strict selection process.

The Chinese mainland has been allocated 19,400 torchbearers.

Song Jiangzhong, an 89-year-old Chongqing man, was successfully selected as a "Lenovo Olympic torchbearer" on August 19.

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