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Olympic torch relay, from Athens to Mt. Everest
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China.org.cn:Besides the relay route, the public is also interested in the torchbearers. What are the requirements to be a torch runner?

Li Ping: Torchbearers are selected globally via extensive participation, which is a large and very complicated program. Torchbearers are selected by organizers and sponsors of the Torch Relay. For the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, governments of each province, autonomous region, the Chinese Olympic Committee, BOCOG, Olympic Committees of overseas destinations of the Olympic Flame, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Sports Federation as well as sponsors are in charge of the selection. Most of the torch runners have been selected from within China since the Olympic Torch will be carried mainly in China.

19,400 torchbearers have been selected in China. There are three ways to be selected: one is through specialized organizations. The second is through open selection. The third is to combine these two ways. Anyone who is over 14 and can finish the prescribed relay route can apply.

But since there are too many people applying to be torchbearers, organizers have set special requirements. As a Chinese torch runner, one should support the Olympic Movement and love one's country.

As a foreign torchbearer, one should support the Beijing Olympic Games. A qualified torchbearer should also embody the Olympic ideal and make a contribution to his profession or community no matter whether he is an ordinary person or a famous figure. A torchbearer is also expected to show enthusiasm for public welfare work.

The selection of torchbearers and the plan of the relay route have almost been finished and will be published soon so look out to see if any of your family, friends, or favorite people have been selected.

China.org.cn: One of the high points of the Torch Relay is that torch runners will climb Mt. Qomolangma. How are the preparations for the ascent going and what are the difficulties?

Li Ping: The preparation is going well. I am very confident about the ascent. Every body has paid close attention to the activity. Qomolangma is the highest mountain in the world and has bad weather conditions, which have made the ascent very challenging. The activity will showcase the determination and courage of the torch runners and the characteristics of the Beijing Olympic Games. It is a very technical and professional project and the main challenges are as follows:

First, it requires a high level of climbing skills and physical ability.

Second, it is not easy to light the Olympic Flame and keep it burning in a high and cold environment with low air pressure, shortage of oxygen and strong winds.

We have made complete preparation for these two challenges. First, we have organized an experienced team who are currently undergoing intensive training and testing to improve their physical strength and climbing skills as well as accumulating experience in the field. As for lighting the Olympic torch on Mt. Qomolangma under severe weather conditions, we have entrusted China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation to develop a brand new kindling system, which has passed several tests. We must be sure that the system will work. We believe it will stand the test of the real situation.

In addition to lighting the torch under very low temperatures, details such as the color and image of the flame also have to be taken into account for satisfactory live TV coverage, to allow audiences across the world to watch the event. I sincerely thank all the researchers for their hard work.

As far as I am concerned, the only uncertain element left is the weather. The weather plays an important part in mountaineering. That's why we picked May, when the weather is mild, for the torch to ascend the Mt. Qomolangma. Good weather conditions will ensure the safety of mountaineering torchbearers as well as the success of the event.

The timetable for the Olympic Flame to ascend the highest peak is flexible unlike the fixed schedules for the relays in other places. We respect science and mountaineering experience. That's why we will decide the exact date for the Flame to ascend Mt. Qomolangma according to weather conditions.

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