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He Zhensheng & Zhang Zilan
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He Zhensheng (L) & Zhang Zilan

Two earthquake-surviving kids ran the first leg of the Olympic torch relay Tuesday in Lijiang, a town renowned for its beautiful scene.

He Zhensheng was born on February 3, 1996, when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Lijiang. Zhang Zilan, a 13-year-old girl, was adopted by an orphanage in Lijiang after her mother died in the 8.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Sichuan Province last month.

"The experience give me courage and confidence towards my future. I am getting used to my new home here," said Zhang, who lost her father years ago.

The opening ceremony was staged in Lijiang People Square at 8:00 a.m. local time. Over 6,000 dancers from 23 ethnic groups dressed up in ethnic costume and put on a folk performance.

The first 138 runners carried the torch within the downtown area before the relay was transferred to the foot of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain 30km away on vehicle for the second leg of relay.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is a mountain massif, also identified as a small mountain range, near Lijiang.

Highlighting torchbearers included Choue Chung Won, president of World Taekwondo Federation, David Haslingden, CEO of National Geographic Channel, Lee Yoonwoo, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, and Tim Fleming and the CEO for Deloitte.

"I have been always support the Olympic movement. It's a great honor to be given the once in life time opportunity," said Fleming.

The relay finished at 11:00 a.m. and the flame then moved on to Shangri-La, a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. The Shangri-La journey will be the first relay in Tibetan-majored inhabitat.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain's highest peak is named Shanzidou (5,596m above sea level). The view of the massif from the gardens at the Black Dragon Pool in Lijiang is noted as one of China's finest views. The far side of the mountain forms one side of Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Shanzidou has been climbed only once, on May 8, 1987, by an American expedition team. The team comprised Phil Peralta-Ramos and Eric Perlman. They climbed snow gullies and limestone headwalls, and encountered high avalanche danger and sparse opportunities for protection.

(Xinhua News Agency June 11, 2008)

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