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Rehearsal for Olympic Torch Relay over Mt. Qomolangma Sparks Disputes
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Beijing's newly announced rehearsal plan for Olympic torch's trip to the world's highest peak has incurred queries about its safety and damage to the local environment.

China Youth Daily published an article on Friday saying that the plan will put the people in torch relay at risk.

"People's Olympics", one of the themes for the Beijing Olympic Games, shall guarantee, at least, the security of all the people participating in the event, said the article.

It's very dangerous to climb Mount Qomolangma, it said, while acknowledging the symbolic meaning of spreading the Olympic flame to the globe's highest point and to more possible corners.

It said that 2,249 mountaineers had reached the world's highest peak by 2004, but 186 had lost their lives. During the first half of 2006, 100 people tried to climb the mountain and 11 of them died.

It will be even harder to carry the Olympic torch over the peak and get the entire proceedings shot for live broadcast, the article said.

Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games (BOCOG)announced earlier that the rehearsal for next year's Olympic torch relay over Mount Qomolangma will be set at a safe period this year considering weather conditions.

The torch is expected to reach Qomolangma from the southern slope and will then be carried down along the northern slope, and the process will be televised, according to BOCOG.

 The article also showed worries over its potential impairment to the mountain environment.

About 50 tons of plastic, glass and metal garbage were dumped on Qomolangma between the 1950s and 1990s. Mountaineers have cleared out seven tons of trash and more than 400 oxygen tanks from the mountain since 2000, it said.

A geologist team funded by the United Nations Environment Program found evident changes in terrain and glacier retreat on Qomolangma at the beginning of this year, it said.

Some experts have blamed the environmental changes partly on the increase of tourists and mountaineers to this area.

This time, more modern facilities will be brought up the mountain to ensure the torch burning and television broadcast, which will then result in greater pollution, the article said.

Earlier reports said that the torch is designed specifically to burn at a high altitude. And the design is now in its final stage.

Beijing has promised in its bidding reports that the holy fire of the Olympics will reach the world's highest peak. It will be the first time for the Olympic torch relay to be held on the 8844.43-meter mount.

(Xinhua News Agency January 6, 2007)

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