Executive vice president of the Beijing organizing committee Jiang Xiaoyu, speaks during a press conference in Beijing, Wednesday, March 19, 2008. [Agencies]
Beijing - The Olympic flame, which will be lit on March 24 in Olympia, Greece, will follow the planned route despite safety concerns after recent riots in Lhasa, said the organizers.
"Lhasa is now basically restored to order and the Tibet Autonomous Regional Government will ensure the stability there and the smooth operation of the torch relay scaling the world's highest peak," said Jiang Xiaoyu, executive vice president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) in a press conference Wednesday.
Last Friday, riots broke out in Lhasa, which raised concerns over the safety of the torch relay in Tibet leg.
"Those who intend to sabotage the Games are opposing the Olympic Charter and defying the people who love peace and the Olympic Games," Jiang added, while addressing media about the the torch relay.
In its bid to host the Olympics, China promised it would take the Olympic torch to the summit of Mt. Qomolangma, or Mt. Everest.
"To have the torch relay climb the highest point on earth is our commitment and we will live up to the promise," explained Jiang. "The reserve flame will be taken to the summit in May, and the precise date of the ascent will be decided by the weather conditions."
"The message that the Beijing Olympic torch relay conveys is peace, friendship and harmony," added the BOCOG official. "We hope the Games will serve as a window though which the world can have a better understanding of China's efforts in developing its economy and its contribution to peace in the world."
In his briefing, Jiang revealed that 16 of the 21 relay countries and regions from outside the Chinese mainland have selected their torchbearers. Those for the mainland have already been chosen. The Chinese mainland relay runners, aged from 14 to 94, include all ethnic groups in China, foreigners living in China as well as compatriots from Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and overseas Chinese.
Jiang also told the media the relay route is already set. It will pass by some of the world's most famous sites, such as the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, the British Museum in London, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong, as well as the ancient Silk Road in China.
In the relay's record 130-day odyssey, the torch will arrive in the Chinese mainland on May 3 in Sanya, Southwest China's Hainan Province. Afterwards, more than 19,000 torchbearers will carry the flame covering the mainland's 31 provinces and autonomous regions.
The torch will finally arrive back in Beijing on August 6 and will be carried into the National Stadium or Bird's Nest for the opening ceremonies two days later.
Jiang dismissed concerns about the torch going through Tibet, Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai, where protestors have threatened to boycott the relay in these areas.
Yet he didn't rule out the possibility of minor changes to the route or cancellations due to unexpected factors like weather.