The Olympic torch relay in China's Guangdong province concluded as Shantou leg went off in spells of rain on Saturday.
Shantou's relay started at 8:05 a.m. local time, marking the last stopover in Guangdong province. Shantou was one of the original Special Economic Zones of China in the 1980s.
The launching ceremony overcame the rainstorm in the morning, with a former weightlifting world champion Cai Yanshu taking over the first torch from a local official in the Dragon Bay District Square.
Cai Yanshu, 44, is a world champion himself before training Zhang Guozheng to the Olympic champion at the 2004 Athens Games.
Cao won gold in men's 75kg category at the 1986 Asian Games. He snatched a weight of160kg, grabbing the title of 75kg category at the 1989 World Championships, "I have never win an Olympic medal. The experience of being an Olympic torchbearer just makes up for the regret," said Cao.
"I trained Zhang Guozheng to the top of Olympic podium at the Athens Olympics and I am now honored to pass the Olympic torch. That's a consummation for me," added Cao. "It's a surprise for me to be the first torchbearer. It's no less than winning an Olympic gold medal. It's a credit from my hometown. The 200m is very short, so I need to get prepared for each action and movement each second as I am carrying the torch. Each torchbearer is bound to show the best in his/her country and his/her hometown."
There are 22 world champions in the 208 torchbearers. Renowned torchbearers are Sun Shuwei, the 1992 Olympic champion in diving, Chen Kunxiong, a paralyzed athlete with over 20 gold medals in his career, Xu Yinchuan, a international master of Chinese chess and Chen Hanshi, who ran for a second time after Bangkok relay last month.
Shantou mayor Cai Zongze was the last one to carry the torch and lighted the cauldron with Sun together at 4:15 local time.
The relay in Shantou proceeded a course of 36km, traversing Pangu Bank, Heng Mountain Road, Tai Mountain road, Train Station Square, Golden Bay Bridge, City Swimming Stadium, Golden Sand Park, Times Square, Yellow Mountain Road, Seaside Road, training base of Chinese diving team.
The highlights along the route are Golden Bay Bridge, Star Lake Park and torch exhibition in diving base. The celebration ceremony was put on in City People's Square.
"It's as significant to be a torchbearer as to win the Olympic gold medal," said Sun Shuwei, who won China's first diving gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He was also a titlist at World Championships and World Cup.
Sun missed a treasured opportunity to pass the Olympic flame in 2004 due to unavailability for the U.S. visit.
"I missed the Olympic torch last time. It's a pity for me, but this time I'd like to enjoy the moment. It's once-in-a-lifetime experience for everyone. This helps me better understand the Olympic spirit," said Sun. Sun is working as a coach in Guangdong Provincial Sports Skill College. "Now my expectation lies in my students. I hope someone among them can be crowned as world champion someday."
Chen Hanshi is the only one carrying the Beijing Olympic torch twice by far after taking part in the Bangkok relay on April 19.
"It's a more remarkable story to carry the Olympic torch in my hometown. It's an honor endowed by my hometown and I will reserve the memory for life," said the 73-year-old.
Chen Hanshi emigrated to Thailand from Shantou, his Ancestral home, in 1963, who is running the world second largest tunny can factory.
"Overseas Chinese are concerned about our homeland. Once the time comes, we would come back to do something right for our hometowns. Now the Olympic Games become a new ligament binding domestic Chinese and overseas Chinese," added Chen.
"The last time to hold torch is in my emigration country, this time in my home country. I am so lucky."
Shantou, historically known in the West as Swatow or Swatau, is a city of five million permanent inhabitants in coastal eastern Guangdong Province.
With its immediately surrounding cities of Jieyang and Chaozhou, the metropolitan region - known as Chaoshan - had a permanent population of 14 million by the end of 2007.
Shantou, a city significant in 19th-century Chinese history as one of the treaty ports established for Western trade and contact, was one of the original Special Economic Zones in China, along with other cities such as Shenzhen, Xiamen and Zhuhai.
In the 1930s, Shantou Port was a transport hub and merchandise distribution centre for Southeast China; its cargo throughput ranked third in the nation.
Shantou was a fishing village part of Tuojiang City, Jieyang District during the Song Dynasty. It came to be Xialing during the Yuan Dynasty. In 1563, Shantou was a part of Chenghai District in Chao Prefecture (Chaozhou). As early as 1574, Shantou had been called Shashan Ping. In the seventeenth century, a cannon platform called Shashan Toupaotai was made here, and the name later was shortened to "Shantou".
(Xinhua News Agency May 10, 2008)