They come from eight different countries but have one thing in common: A love for China.
Their understanding of the country is profound; their commitment, uplifting; their vision, inspiring; and passion, contagious.
And they moved many as they articulated why they deserve to be the eight foreigners privileged to carry the Olympic torch in China.
Thursday, they were unveiled by computer maker Lenovo as the eight expats nominated after a month-long online campaign.
Applicants were asked to submit a profile justifying their candidacy, then frogmarched through a public online vote. After that, a selection panel made up of Lenovo Group officials and China Daily executives had the final say.
In a bid to restrict the winners to one per country, and keep the program as cosmopolitan as possible, two Americans were axed from the final list despite garnering enough votes to secure a place.
The eight foreign residents who will each carry the torch for 200 meters on Chinese soil next year are, in order of winning votes: Jenny Bowen of the US, Marcos Torres of the Philippines, Werner Ebel of Germany, Meena Barot of India, Yoshitoshi Mizuya of Japan, Luis Hong-Sanchez of Colombia, Yury Ilyakhin of Russia and British-Venezuelan Deirdre Smyth.
The campaign was organized by Lenovo Group, the worldwide partner of the Olympic torch relay, with the help of China Daily, the country's only national English-language newspaper.
Some 262 people from 47 countries and regions vied for the eight available slots and another 245,000 voted with their mouse. Altogether, 1.5 million people comprising 156 nationalities visited the campaign webpage.
Applicants, votes and comments poured in from all around the world after the online campaign began on September 7, said Alice Li, vice-president, Olympic Marketing of Lenovo.
"This demonstration of enthusiasm, creativity and sense of international community is consistent with the Olympic spirit, which cherishes the participation and unification of different cultures and peoples," she said. "It greatly helped Lenovo increase its brand influence."
The winners were chosen by a vote, but in order to be shortlisted they had to demonstrate their appreciation of Chinese culture and history and their devotion to communicating information about "the real China" to the rest of the world.
The oldest contestant was 88-year-old Eleanor Liu and the youngest was four-year-old Serena Gao. Both were born in the United States.
Although Gao ranked sixth according to the number of votes, she was disqualified for not meeting the minimum age requirement of 14.
Many prominent political figures, including the ambassadors of Greece and the Seychelles, could not make it to the final eight, as did leading business figures like the presidents of Bayer Healthcare and Chang'an Ford Mazda Automobile Co.
In the campaign, as in the Olympics, contestants entered a very level playing field and performed according to their own merit.
In addition to the required campaign stories, themed "China and I", which were published on the China Daily website along with the candidates' photos, some applicants engaged a variety of mass media to promote themselves.
Some cooperated with newspapers, television and radio station in China or in their home country to solicit votes, others opted for personal blogs.
Some formed groups on popular social networking websites like FaceBook, while others uploaded campaign videos on websites like Youtube.
The organizers of the Beijing Olympic Games began recruiting 21,880 torchbearers from around the world on June 23 through various organizations and entities.
Exactly 19,400 people will be picked to run in China.