China.org.cn: Many cities want to host the Olympic torch relay. How did you make selections when figuring out the relay route? And how do you plan to show the world ancient and modern aspects of China through such a route?
Li Ping: We followed some principles when fixing the relay route; for example, the cities selected must be able to diffuse the Olympic spirit at the broadest level, such ideas as hosting a "Green Olympics", a "Hi-tech Olympics" and a "People's Olympics" and also the theme of the torch relay—"Journey of Harmony".
The Torch Relay is intended to be a showcase of cultural symbols, natural scenery and achievements. The relay route must also be favorable for a safe and smooth journey of the Olympic Flame.
The relay route within Chinese territory has been arranged. The Olympic Flame will travel across China in 97 days, staying 3-4 days in each province and autonomous region as well as Beijing, and 2 days in Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing. Specific routes for each destination were planned by local governments and submitted to the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG). The organizing committee then had face-to-face meetings with the torch relay organizers in each place and also invited experts to make feasibility studies on the plans.
The final route plan is scientifically based on opinions of experts and of people from all parts of the country, reflecting the enthusiasm of the public. The Torch Relay will travel 40,000 kilometers in 97 days, passing more than 700 cities and a thousand towns and villages, which means the Torch Relay of Beijing Olympic Games will involve the most people in Olympic history. That was also one of our promises when bidding for the Games.
The Olympic Torch Relay will also be a showcase of achievements of the reform and opening-up period of the past 30 years. For example, the coastal areas will showcase their achievement of rapid economic growth. The western regions will present their remarkable achievements in building infrastructure and improving the environment. The northeastern areas will show their old industrial bases still have vitality. The central area will highlight its culture and resources as well as the great changes that are taking place.
The Torch Relay also covers the 56 ethnic groups in China; the relay route passes through the most representative regions inhabited by minorities, such as Kaili, capital of an autonomous prefecture in Guizhou Province, Lijiang and the Shangri-la area in Yunnan Province, and Yanji in Jilin Province. The wide coverage reflects the harmony of the 56 ethnic groups.
The Torch Relay will travel across areas with differing geographical features, representing China's vast territory and beautiful landscape. The relay route also includes half of the officially designated historical and cultural cities at national level as well as 70 percent of China's world natural and cultural heritage sites, all of which are intended to embody and express China's rich culture.