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Song and dance await torch in sister city
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Busy with my duties while accompanying the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on his recent trip to China, I did not have a chance to visit the Water Cube, the Olympic swimming pool, designed by an Australian architect. Instead, I had to immediately rush back to Canberra, because the sacred Olympic flame is on its way to the Australian continent.

Autumn in Canberra is the most colorful season of the year. Having been away for just a week, I was very excited to discover on my return that the colorful Olympic torch relay banners promoting "the Journey of Harmony" are raised and flying high all along the streets of Canberra. These colorful flags and decorations have blended perfectly into the beautiful April landscape of Canberra.

Canberra is a sister city to Beijing. Many Australian friends ask me, "Why was Canberra chosen to be a route among the many cities visited by the Beijing Olympic torch?" My response is, "The former mayor of Beijing, Mr Wang Qishan, has said to me that as the Olympic Games host city, it is our desire to share the honor and excitement with Beijing's sister city."

Australia is regarded to be an important partner of China. The visit of the Olympic flame will re-ignite and enhance the friendship between these two capital cities and reaffirm the two nations' commitment to working together to complete the smooth "Journey of Harmony" for the Olympic torch relay through the only city chosen for the Oceania route.

The Beijing Olympic Games slogan carries the message, "One World One Dream". To the 1.3 billion Chinese, the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games is a dream that has finally come true. It is a historic moment which all nations will share. In Beijing and across in China, many workers, volunteers, organizers, and athletes have put hours of hard work and sweat in preparing for this event. In August this year, these people will greet and welcome all friends from across the five continents with their best smiles.

However, the recent incidents in London, Paris and other cities en route, the Olympic torch has endured repeated violent attacks as it moved on its way.

The spectacle of a young Chinese Paralympics athlete in a wheelchair, holding the torch with both arms close to her chest in order to protect the flame from violent "protesters" trying repeatedly to grab it from her has infuriated me. Supporters of the Olympic Games should feel concerned with the behavior of those who are hell-bent on dampening the spirit of the Games.

Many people are asking what exactly the protestors mean. Shouldn't such disturbing behavior be seen as unacceptable and shouldn't the public and the media condemn these violent attacks? I sincerely hope that such unhappy incidents will not be repeated when the torch visits Canberra.

The Olympic flame is a passion not for the city of Beijing alone; it belongs to the whole world. Today, the Olympic flame will be ignited in Canberra. It will light up the hearts of many people who are eager to be part of the journey. The Australia counterpart has organized many special events, including performances by Canberra's 500 finest voices in an uplifting community choir and by the talented "Yellow Earth Plateau Cultural Dance Troupe" of China.

"Light the passion, share the dream" will be the theme when 80 torch bearers, including a 92-year-old, veteran Olympians, well known Australians and eminent community representatives, will participate in the relay. Just imagine people residing in Canberra and around Australia, including many Chinese students and others, gathering here in Canberra to welcome the Olympic flame and send their best wishes to the Olympic Games. Australia supports the ideals of Olympics. Australians are warm and generous people. I hope, on the day, the loudest voice we hear is the sound of the cheers to welcome the Olympic flame.

Kevin Rudd, the Australian Prime Minister, has stated during his visit to China that Australia wishes the Beijing Olympic Games a great success. The editorials in major Australian newspapers endorsed that Australia should not boycott the Beijing Olympic Games. Many Olympic torchbearers have said how honored and proud they feel to be given the opportunity to carry the torch.

My hope is that the Olympic torch relay will successfully showcase to the whole world all of Canberra's attractions, the wonderful spirit of the Australian people and also the peace and friendship that the people of Australia and China always share.

By Zhang Junsai, Chinese ambassador to Australia

(China Daily April 24, 2008)


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