The slogan for this year's Olympic Torch Relay -- "Light the Passion, Share the Dream" took on a poignant, additional significance Monday, as the relay made its way through the earthquake ravaged Sichuan. Thousands of cheering people turned out amid a sea of flags, to celebrate the coming on the games -- in the place where tens of thousands died, in the earthquake, less than three months ago.
The Olympic torch is carrying through Leshan, Sichuan province.
There was a minute of silence to remember those who lost their lives in the earthquake. Then the relay-- on its journey of hope and solace -- carried on from Leshan. Along the route deafening shouts of "Rebuild Sichuan! Go China!" were heard continuously.
The relay in Leshan started at Mingshan Pavilion. It went for one and a half hours. The first torch bearer was former Olympic diving champion Gao Min -- who participated in the 24th and 25th Olympics. 185 bearers in Leshan carried the torch over a distance of 7.5 kilometers. The last torch bearer was Tan Guoqiang, one of the heroes of the Sichuan disaster. The primary school where he was headmaster was at the quake's epicenter in Wenchuan. Tan organized effective rescue efforts in the wake of the catastrophe. Monday, he ignited the cauldron in Yingbin Square on Emei Mountain.
The relay took on a special significance in Sichuan -- where so many lives were lost and so many towns devastated in the earthquake. As those lining the route responded with their shouts of "Go China! Go Olympics! Rebuild Sichuan", the torch helped re-ignite the spirt and courage of people who face the work of rebuilding their homes and communities.
Jiang Min, the 1st torchbearer in Guang'an said "I am so exited right now. Many thanks to those who cared so much. Many thanks to our dear motherland. It was your caring that gave us the confidence to rebuild our homes and our communities better than before."
The first torchbearer in Guang'an on Sunday, Jiang Min, is a policewoman in Pengzhou. In that city, near the earthquake's epicenter at Wenchuan, she lost 10 members of her family--including her two-year old daughter and her parents. In the face of her grief she went to work in the front line of relief efforts -- and moved the entire nation. As she finished her part in the torch relay, she commented -- "I will bring the Olympic spirit to my work. We can rebuild our homeland by working together".
Sichuan is the final stop for the Olympic flame before it heads to Beijing for the Games opening ceremony, Friday. The Sichuan tour had been scheduled, originally to take place in June. It was postponed because of the earthquake. In all -- 862 torchbearers, 29 of them rescue workers were nominated to take part in the relay.
(CCTV August 5, 2008)