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Over 1 mln people cheer torch relay in Guangzhou
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The Olympic flame continued its festivity-prone relay Wednesday in Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong Province, amid cheers of over one million spectators after wrapping up its Chinese mainland start in Hainan.

The Guangzhou relay covered 40 kilometers with 208 torchbearers amid cheers and jubilance from thousands of local supporters.

The relay started in Guangzhou International Convention Center at 8:10 am local time, passing Hill Top Park, Yuntai Garden, Guangzhou Arts Museum, Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum, Chen Ancestral Temple, Beijing Road, Haiyin Park, Consulate District Square and reached the celebration site Guangzhou Tianhe Sports Complex at 6:20 pm local time.

Folk artists performed Chinese traditional lion and dragon dancing from set-off point. A large pack of spectators witnessed the launching ceremony. Outside the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum, a thousand of local residents practised shadowboxing in style, welcoming the arrival of Olympic flame.

The torchbearers are composed of athletes, entertainers, workers, charitarians, teachers, students, volunteers and a pregnant mother.

High-profiled torchbearers include Olympic gold medalist Yang Jinghui, Swedish diver Ulrika Margarata Knape-Lindberg, former Chinese national soccer coach Shen Xiangfu, three-time fencing Olympian Dong Zhaozhi and actor Chen Kun.

Guangzhou-born Yang Jinghui was the first torchbearer. Yang won the gold medal in the synchronized 10 meters platform diving competition together with Tian Liang in the 2004 Summer Olympics.

"It's a great honor for me to be selected as the first runner," said 24-year-old Yang. "I am an athlete, a student and a volunteer, so I can represent all three kinds of people."

Yang had carried the torch for the 2006 Doha Asian Games and 2007 Guangzhou National University Games.

"It's quite a different feeling to hold the Olympic torch. Now I look at myself in mirror more often than before, as you know you have to care about how you look," Yang said. "The Olympic Games is always an ultimate dream for any athlete. For me, a retired athlete, I am proud to be part of the Beijing Games by passing the Olympic flame."

Ulrika Margarata Knape-Lindberg, a Swedish female diver, is among the torchbearers. Knape-Lindberg, an Olympic gold and silver medalist at the age of 17, started her career in 1964.

It's the third time for Knape-Lindberg to carry Olympic torch. "I am so honored to become a torchbearer for the third time. The first two experiences came from Stockholm relay in 1994 Winter Games Lillehammer, Norway and 2004 Athens Games," she said.

Knape-Lindberg won a bulk of medals including 10m gold and 3m silver in Olympic Games 1972, 10m silver in Olympic Games 1976, 10m gold and 3m silver in 1973 World Championships.

"I look forward to the Guangzhou relay very much, and I would prefer to run slowly so as to fully enjoy the moment."

She is the coach and team leader for 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, 2000 Olympics in Sydney and 2004 Olympics in Athens. She now works as a diving instructor in the hometown of Karlskoga.

The relay ended at 6:00 pm with Chinese fencer Dong Zhaozhi, a twice Olympic silver medal winner, being the last runner.

Dong, born in Guangzhou in 1973, is a male Chinese foil fencer who competed in the 1996 Summer Olympics, in the 2000 Summer Olympics, and in the 2004 Summer Olympics.

"I would transform the passion of Olympic flame into my job. I hope I can contribute something for the development of sports in China and worldwide," said Dong.

The Pearl River Delta in Guangdong province is one of China's leading commercial and manufacturing regions - and Guangzhou is its economic centre.

By the early 19th Century, Guangzhou - or Canton as it was known in the English-speaking world - was one of the world's leading ports.

And its importance for China's economic miracle in the past two decades cannot be understated. Measured in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), the province is the nation's wealthiest.

And it is also believed to be one of China's most populous province, with more than 80 million registered residents and an additional 30 million migrant workers.

And the province is at the heart of China's southern belt - with a subtropical climate, Cantonese dialect and distinctive Cantonese cuisine.

Certain southern Chinese cultural traditions such as Cantonese opera remain powerful.

The flame is on its way for Shenzhen, the second largest city in Guangdong province, after community celebration.

(Xinhua News Agency May 8, 2008)

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