The Beijing Olympic torch relay will reach the world's highest peak, cover the longest distance, and involve the most people in Games history, it was announced last night.
The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) unveiled its torch relay route and the torch - a red and silver cloud-design tube shaped like a Chinese scroll.
"As the prelude to the Games, the torch relay is one of the most important ceremonies and a major means to spread and promote the Olympic spirit," BOCOG President Liu Qi said at the launching ceremony at the China Millennium Monument in Beijing.
The Olympic torch will be carried across all five continents, along the ancient "Silk Road" and 135 cities, covering 137,000 kilometers over 130 days, the longest time the flame has ever been carried.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) praised the planned route.
"By traveling along the 'Silk Road', a symbol of ancient trade links between China and the rest of the world, crossing the five continents and going to new places, the Beijing 2008 Torch Relay will, as its theme says, be a 'journey of harmony', bringing friendship and respect to people of different nationalities, races and creeds," IOC President Jacques Rogge said.
"I have no doubt the Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay will leave many extraordinary memories and create new dreams for people around the world."
The Olympic flame will be lit in Olympia, Greece on March 25, 2008. From March 25 to 30, the torch will travel across Greece, ending at the Panathinaiko Stadium, the site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
After a handover ceremony in the stadium, the flame will arrive in Beijing on March 31.
The world Olympic partners Coca-Cola, Samsung and Lenovo will be the sponsors for the relay.
One of the highlights of this leg will be the attempt to bring the Olympic flame in May to the highest peak in the world - Mount Qomolangma.
"Lifting the Olympic flame to the peak of the world is one of our commitments in the bidding, which shows our respect to the Olympics," BOCOG Executive Vice-President Jiang Xiaoyu, said.
"To reach the peak of the mountain, athletes and torchbearers should make great efforts, which is in line with the Olympic spirit of 'higher, stronger and faster'."
BOCOG said carrying the Olympic flame to Mount Qomolangma would not affect the natural environment there.
"Green Olympics is one of the three concepts of the Beijing Games, we have issued special environmental protection manual for Mount Qomolangma," Jiang said.
"The passing on the mountain will be a journey of green."
(China Daily April 27, 2007)