Canadian Mark Rowswell, well known in China by his local monicker "Dashan," said on Saturday that he felt he had found his "roots" in Kaifeng, a city in the central Henan Province which was illuminated by the Beijing Olympic sacred flame.
Having lived in China for nearly 20 years, Dashan, a household name for his Chinese cross-talk and comedy, was regarded as the most famous foreigner in the country.
Holding the torch and jogging with a smile in the face, the celebrity torchbearer was encountered by the deafening cheers of the people standing along the road.
"I have chosen to take part in the torch relay in Henan, rather than Beijing, where I am living, because I feel I have my roots here," the Dashan said in fluent Chinese.
He said it was a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to be a torchbearer, which would be "life-long memory."
"It's incredible for me to become a torchbearer in China, which, over the past 20 years, has seen an incredible change," he said.
Dashan, whose grandparents worked at a hospital in Shangqiu City in Henan from 1922 to 1925, was granted honorary citizenship by the Shangqiu Municipal Government and later selected a torchbearer.
"It's already a great honor to be one of the Olympic torch bearers, and it means all the more to me that I will do it in the province where my grandparents used to work and live," he said.
Roswell sprang to fame in 1988 after his performance as Dashan in a skit, which was seen by 550 million viewers. The Chinese people immediately fell in love with his big eyes, sexy hair, expressive facial features and aura of cleverness.
He was named Canadian Team Attache for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and will be a standby helper to the Canadian delegation.
(Xinhua News Agency July 26, 2008)