CHENGDU -- The Olympic torch relay ended on Tuesday in Chengdu, capital of the quake-battered Sichuan Province, the last leg of its tour outside the host city Beijing.
The Chengdu leg of the torch relay began at 8:10 a.m. on Tuesday, 85 days after an 8.0-magnitude earthquake jolted the southwestern province and killed nearly 70,000 people there.
Tens of thousands of people looked on as former Olympic gold medalist Zhang Shan took over the torch from the provincial Communist Party chief Liu Qibao to become the first of all 315 torchbearers along the 13.2-kilometer relay route.
Zhang claimed gold in the skeet event at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 but failed to enter the Beijing Games after losing to her teammate Wei Ning in the qualification round. Wei, 26, was runner-up in the Athens Games of 2004.
"If the Beijing Games were an endpoint in my own Olympic career, then I hope they would be the starting point for the younger people," said Zhang, 40.
"Go, go, China; Arise, Sichuan" were heard from the crowd of onlookers, many of whom still need time to heal the trauma brought by the earthquake of May 12.
Two huge signboards were erected at the starting point of the relay route, expressing thanks from the Sichuan people for the help they have received from across China and the world.
When the torch relay ended at 10:40 a.m., a ceremony was held to celebrate, with all the 862 torchbearers from Sichuan, quake relief workers and children from the quake-hit areas, including three-year-old Lang Zheng who saluted to his saviors from the stretcher and young heroes who saved classmates in time of the disaster.
Sichuan enjoys more than 4,500 years of civilization and is home to the endangered giant panda, the original form of Jingjing, one of the five mascot dolls of the Beijing Games.
After Sichuan, the Olympic flame will be relayed in Beijing from Wednesday to Friday before the opening of the Games.
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The Olympic torch relay was suspended for three days after the devastating earthquake, and Sichuan was readjusted on the relay schedule to become the last stop before Beijing.