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OLYMPICS/ Relay Cities

Torch relay moves to Hunan province


YUEYANG, Hunan: Banners in support of earthquake victims will greet the torch relay today in Yueyang, Hunan province.

Yuan Longping, the 77-year-old "father of the hybrid rice," will start the run at Yueyang Tower on the banks of Dongting Lake.

Originally built in the Tang Dynasty, the tower became famous during the Northern Song Dynasty (960 to 1127) when it was rebuilt and counselor Fan Zhongyan wrote a poem about it.

The poem contains the famous line: "One should be the first to bear hardship, and the last to enjoy comfort."

The line has been written on many banners lining the route of the relay in reference to the rebuilding efforts that are taking place in the quake-hit regions.

In the afternoon, the torch will go to Miluo, a county under Yueyang's administration, about 110 km away.

Miluo is the birth place of the Dragon Boat Festival for the Chinese, celebrated each year on the fifth day of the fifth month according to the lunar calendar.

The festival is to commemorate Qu Yuan (340-278 BC), minister of the State of Chu and one of China's earliest poets.

Qu plunged into the Miluo River, clasping his arms around a large stone, after his proposal to defend the state was turned down and eventually conquered.

As the festival falls on Sunday this year, dragon boat enthusiasts are already practicing on the river.

It is supposed to serve as a splendid backdrop to the closing ceremony of the torch relay.

Olympic badminton champion Gong Zhichao and Super Girl singing competition winner Li Yuchun are among the 205 torchbearers for today's relay.

The torch will move on to Changsha, capital city of Hunan province and then on to Xiangtan and Shaoshan.

Hunan province is the birthplace of Chairman Mao Zedong.

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