The Olympic torch relay in Fuzhou, the capital city of southeastern China's Fujian Province, kicked off at 9:39 AM local time on Sunday.
At the launching ceremony, Zheng Meizhu, the former volleyball Olympic champion, took the torch from a local official in the Wuyi Square, running as the first of the 208 bearers.
"I'm extremely excited and honored at this moment. It's quite different from being an athlete to go all out for an Olympic medal. As a torchbearer, I felt I shoulder the responsibility of passing on the love and friendship to the world," smiling Zheng told reporters.
A large number of spectators witnessed the launching ceremony, with national flags and Olympic flags waving, and hundreds of citizens performed Chinese traditional drum dancing from the starting point.
The 28-kilometer Fuzhou relay started on the Wuyi square in the center of the city, set to pass local landmarks and historic sites, including Three Hills and Two Pagodas, Three Alleys and Seven Lanes, Luoxing Tower and Taijiang Dock. The relay will end at the Wanglongtai Park, where a celebration is going to be held.
Fuzhou is a famous historic and cultural city on the southeastern coast of China with a history of more than 2,200 years, and also a pivotal gateway on "the silk road via the sea".
The city is also a famous hometown for overseas Chinese. There are 2.7 million overseas Chinese, and Hong Kong, Macao compatriots with the origin of Fuzhou living in more than 110 countries and regions in the world.
After the tour of Fuzhou, the Olympic flame is set to carry on its relay in Quanzhou, the second stop in Fujian Province, on Monday.
(Xinhua News Agency May 11, 2008)