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Yao Ming
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Yao Ming carries the Olympic torch in Beijing August 6.

Yao Ming carries the Olympic torch in Beijing August 6. [CFP]

Taking part in the Beijing Olympics torch relay in front of the Tian'anmen Square Wednesday morning means he will miss the opportunity to light the flame at Friday's the opening ceremony, but NBA star center Yao Ming has no regret at all.

"It's already a great honor to take part in the torch relay as an ordinary bearer, I have not had the wild wishes of lighting the flame at the opening ceremony," Yao said on Wednesday after running as the No. 9 torch bearer on the first day relay in the host city of the 2008 Olympic Games.

"I think the honor (of lighting the flame at the opening ceremony) belongs to older generation of the Chinese sportsmen who have made most contricution to the development of sports in our country."

The 2.26-meter Yao, who plays for the Houston Rockets, was very excited after his second straight torch relay experience.

"Four years ago, I took part in the torch relay of the Athens Games, that time I was running at the Summer Palace," he recalled. "It was my first close contact with the Olympic flame and I just felt great."

"This time I was even more excited. After the torch was lit, I was suddenly in blind mind. Then I realized I should begin to run," Yao added. "I could feel the passion within my heart strongly when I saw so many people cheering for me."

Yao, disputedly the most famous Chinese athlete, is also among favorites to bear the flag for the Chinese Sports Delegation at the opening ceremony.

"I think I will go to the opening ceremony, because the men's baksetball team is almost certain to go," said Yao, who led fellow Chinese athletes into the opening ceremony at the Athens Games four years ago. "But I have received no information about whether or not I will bear the flag on Friday."

Two days after the opening ceremony, Yao Ming and his teammates will start their Olympic campaign with the star-studded United States to be their first rival.

"It will be very difficult to play with the United States," Yao said. "We would be very happy if this match could make some contribution to the friendship of the two countries and I think it will also be great treasure of my life."

(Xinhua News Agency August 6, 2008)

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