By Sapna Maheshwari
The Paralympic torch relay will not travel internationally as originally planned and its domestic journey will be shortened, officials from the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
Organizers said that after the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan Province, the committee decided to downsize the Paralympic torch relay to focus on relief and reconstruction work and to "simplify procedures."
"We want to focus on the relief and reconstruction work as well as the preparations for both games," said Zhang Qiuping, director of BOCOG's Paralympic Games Department.
They did not address questions regarding the cancellation's potential connection with Olympic torch relay protests overseas.
The relay was supposed to visit London, Vancouver, Sochi and Hong Kong, and would have been the first Paralympic torch relay to travel internationally. The new relay route will also cut out four cities inside China: Chengdu, Chongqing, Urumqi and Tianjin.
BOCOG is the first Olympics organizer to handle both the Olympics and Paralympics.
Also at the press conference, organizers presented information about what will be the largest Olympic Youth Camp (OYC) in the history of the Olympics.
The OYC, which began at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, invites outstanding 16 to 18 year-olds from around the world to participate in a camp geared towards "youth education and cultural exchange."
About 480 campers will attend the OYC this year, with 410 from outside of China and 72 from China. The 72 from China includes 10 disabled campers in honor of the Paralympic Games, a first for the program, as disabled campers have never before been included in the OYC.
The campers will attend the opening and closing ceremonies, athletic events and tour the city, in addition to participating in activities organized by the camp. The program is free for campers.
Two representatives were selected each by 205 National and Regional Olympic Committees around the world, while 2 delegates were selected from each of China's provinces.
The OYC had a budget of 20 million yuan or about US$ 2.9 million and will utilize about 383 volunteers.
Haidian district made an additional investment of about 20 million yuan for venue renovation, said Wang Yue, director of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Youth Camp Venue Team.
(China.org.cn June 26, 2008)