sharing the Olympic spirit
OLYMPICS/ Torchbearer selection

Eight expats fulfill dreams of bearing Olympic Torch in China

China Daily
Updated: 2008-07-23 16:59


You may still remember the voting you underwent from September to November 2007 for selecting torchbearers for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Torch Relay. By July 7, 2008, the eight winners of this campaign have fulfilled their dreams of running the Olympic Torch in China.

Below is a glimpse of their torch running schedules and locations as well as photos. All of the eight winners, representing their home countries as well as foreigners who work and live in China, were thrilled by the once-in-a-lifetime experience and were moved by the passion of the spectators en route. Let’s celebrate the successful completion of their long-awaited dream and share their joy!

The 2008 Olympic Torch has traveled through 21 cities outside of the Chinese Mainland and is currently on its way of passing 113 cities in the Chinese Mainland and making its way to the Bird Nest in Beijing on the night of August 8, 2008, the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Let’s wait for that very moment to come!

May 15, Jinggangshan, Jiangxi Province
Torchbearer: Luis Hong-Sanchez, Columbia

Luis Hong-Sanchez from Columbia. Click for more photos

Luis Hong-Sanchez still remembers the excitement he felt when he was selected from a field of 261 candidates to be one of the just eight expatriate Olympic torchbearers.

But when he carried the torch in Jinggangshan, the second leg of the torch relay in Jiangxi province, three days after the deadly Sichuan earthquake, his elation was tempered by the magnitude of the disaster.

"It is hard to describe my feelings," said the multilingual 15-year-old.

"I had been looking forward to the moment holding the torch. But it is always really sad to know that people are dying."

Born to a Chinese father and a Colombian mother in Evanston in the US state of Illinois, Hong-Sanchez moved to China with his parents when he was three months old.

Fluent in Chinese, English and Spanish, Hong-Sanchez hoped to translate for Colombian athletes during the upcoming Olympics but didn't meet the minimum age requirement of 18.

"Being chosen as a torchbearer helped fulfill my wish," he said. "But there have been so many sad things happening recently, the train crash (on March 14 in Shandong province), the cyclone in Myanmar and now the earthquake."

Hong-Sanchez said he had learned about earthquakes' destructive power, particularly the one that in hit Tangshan, Hubei province, some 30 years ago.

June 15, Wanzhou, Chongqing Municipality
Torchbearer: Jenny Bowen, USA

Jenny Bowen from the USA. Click for more photos

Hundreds of thousands of spectators cheered her as she carried the Olympic torch through the streets of Wanzhou.

But Jenny Bowen's eyes were on the 50 pre-school children orphaned by the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan province and Chongqing municipality.

"My only reason for running is the children," said Bowen. The 63-year-old American mother of two adopted Chinese girls has helped more than 15,000 children through her Half the Sky Foundation, which was set up in 1998. "To me, it (the running with the torch) gives them a voice."

"I want them to be part of the celebrations with all of China," she said. "Often children who lose their families are forgotten They don't have a mother telling them to do well in school and study hard. Basically, everything they accomplish in life is because of their own (determination) or with the support of an organization like ours."

Bowen said that being a torchbearer is "a wonderful opportunity to make them, especially those orphaned in Sichuan, part of the celebrations".

Half the Sky is working with 36 welfare institutions in 28 Chinese cities. The program provides training, educational tools and medical support to about 4,000 children.  

July 7, Lanzhou, Gansu Province
Torchbearers: Deirdre Smyth Brady, Venezuela; Ilyakhin Yury, Russia; Yoshitoshi Mizuya, Japan; Marco Torres, Philippines; Barot Meena, India; Werner Ebel, Germany (Click for more photos)

Six foreigners who carried the Olympic torch brought gifts and friendship to a local small rural school.

Deirdre Smyth from Venezuela, sang a folk song from her country and played the cuatro, a musical instrument similar to the guitar. "We want to share our happiness at becoming the Olympic torchbearers with you. All of us dreamt of becoming torchbearers. We persevered and we succeeded," said the 43-year-old mother of four and breast cancer survivor.

(Clockwise left) Deirdre Smyth Brady from Venezuela (Click for more photos), Ilyakhin Yury from Russia (Click for more photos), Yoshitoshi Mizuya from Japan (Click for more photos), Marco Torres from Philippines (Click for more photos), Barot Meena from India (Click for more photos) and Werner Ebel from Germany (Click for more photos).

Marco Antonio Torres from the Philippines arrived a day earlier to make preparations for the visit. He and his colleagues bought schoolbags for every child and he also brought an oil painting by a famous Filipino artist to the school.

"Kids are the future. I am so happy to help them and encourage them," said the marketing manager of a Beijing design company.

Yury Ilyakhin from Russia brought his wife and daughter on the trip. The family sang the famous Russian folk song Katyusha to celebrate the friendship between the two countries.

Meena Barot from India remarked on the remoteness of the school and pointed to the similarities with her own childhood.

"I also grew up in the countryside, but I worked hard to improve my life. Every student here should have a dream and work hard to make their name one day," said the business manager of an Indian pharmaceutical company.

German railway engineer Werner Ebel introduced German games to the children and encouraged them to study hard. He came to China in 2006 to work on a high-speed railway project in Zhengzhou, Henan province. Yoshitoshi Mizuya invited a dozen of his friends and colleagues to celebrate his run in Lanzhou. 


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