OLYMPICS / Newsmaker

Cao, 104, knocked off relay team
By Xie Fang
China Daily Staff Writer
Updated: 2008-08-06 11:12


When the Olympic torch relay arrives in Beijing today, centenarian Cao Zuozheng won't be one of its bearers.

Cao Zuozheng looks forward to the Beijing Olympics. [China Daily]

The 104-year-old Beijinger has lost her bid to carry the torch and her children still can't bring themselves to tell her.

Instead, they have managed to secure her tickets for several events and she will possibly be the oldest of the millions who attend this month.

Last June, Cao was the only candidate from her residential community to register for the torchbearer selection program. A few months later, however, her application was turned down by Beijing's Dongcheng district, in view of her health.

Even a year later, Xiao Xinhua, the youngest of Cao's four children, isn't over the sad news. "I have never dared to inform her as it could hurt her a lot," she says, sighing. "What I can do is not mention the matter any more and shift her attention to watching the Games."

Last summer, Cao's whole family was called into action to book the tickets online. Luckily, they gained six tickets - three for track and field events at the Natinal Stadium and three for the gymnastics at the National Gymnasium.

As the centenarian cannot go out without her wheelchair, her eldest son and Xiao will accompany her. A bright blue silk dress has been specially made for her big days out.

"The games we watch might not be the most popular ones but we just want to bring her there to fulfill her dream of participating in the Games," Xiao says.

In recent weeks, Xiao has kept reminding her mother how many days are left until the opening ceremony, which really cheers her up. "My, how time flies," she says with a smile.

According to Xiao, her mum's health has been good over the past year. Although she has stopped the exercise of lifting her hand above her head as if holding a torch, she often goes to public parks in her wheelchair to get some fresh air.

Xiao admits they can't even take her mother to watch the torch relay because it would be too difficult.

In 2004, Cao waited in her wheelchair for three hours at the side of the road to watch the Athens torch relay in Beijing. She developed her great passion to be involved after having a photo taken with a Chinese torchbearer.

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