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China wants Games torch on Mt.Qomolangma
Updated: 2005-05-26 21:21

China has high hopes for the 2008 Olympic Games -- 8,848 meters (8,850 meters to the west) high, to be exact.

Beijing is investigating how to haul the Olympic torch to the peak of Mount Qomulangma and broadcast the event live during the pre-Games torch relay, a senior Olympics official said on Thursday.

A file photo shows the Mt. Qomolangma.
"We have organized a research team and they are assessing it," said Liu Jingmin, executive vice president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games, told Reuters.

"It depends on the weather at the time and on when it will happen," said Liu, who is also vice mayor of Beijing. China was scheduled to submit a route plan for the relay to the International Olympic Committee by the end of 2006.

The relay of the "flame of peace" has become a spectacle. Ahead of the Athens games in 2004, it circled the world on a six-week tour under tight security, flying from country to country in a specially chartered jumbo jet, dubbed Zeus.

Logistically, taking the flame to the highest point on Earth is not a big problem, he said.

"Going up may not be too complicated, but filming the whole thing will be very complex," he added.

In 1999, China took a ceremonial flame to the top of Qomulangma, which straddles the China-Nepal border, during a sports competition among China's ethnic minorities.

Executive vice president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Beijing Games Liu Jingming smiles during an interview in Beijing May 26, 2005. China wants to take the Olympics torch to the top of the world on the summit of Mount Everest and across Taiwan on its route to the 2008 Beijing Games, Liu said on May 26. [Reuters]
That torch was outfitted with a special oxygen tank to keep it burning in the thin air and an igniter to re-light the flame when gusting winds blew it out, but the experience showed it could be done.

"The torch is not a problem," Liu said.

Broadcasting the images live is another story, though.

Travel on yakback

In 2003, China's state-run broadcaster showed live footage of climbers reaching the peak using a portable microwave transmitter to send a signal to a satellite ground station.

The cost of transporting the gear up just the middle reaches on yaks was 200,000 yuan ($24,170), Xinhua news agency reported.

Liu said no decision had yet been made about who would carry the torch up the mountain, but he noted that most torch bearers in the past had been local.

"Not everyone can climb Qomulangma," he added.

"In Nepal there is an ethnic group for whom climbing Mount Qomulangma is as easy as eating breakfast. Maybe we'll go up with them."

Liu added that China also hoped the flame could pass through Taiwan.

"We hope it goes there," he said. "Taipei has given Beijing a lot of support in our application for and preparations for the Olympics, so of course we can enjoy this honor with the Taiwanese people."

Taiwan takes part in the Olympic Games under the name Chinese Taipei.

Beijing's original plan for the torch relay was a "New Silk Road" concept, bringing it from Athens to China via Rome, the Arab world and South Asia, Liu said.

But instability in some areas may be a limitation.

"As you know, there are also some places along that route that are not so safe. How could we carry the torch in an armored vehicle?" he said.

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