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After an int'l odyssey, the Flame of Hope touches home base
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The torch that was ignited in Athens about three months ago finally arrived in Shanghai last night -- and what a Special occasion.



Shanghai Party Secretary Xi Jinping lights the flame in Pudong last night and declares the Law Enforcement Torch Run open in Shanghai as a senior police looks on and, fittingly, the city's landmark Customs house clock tower acts as a backdrop.


At a ceremony held at Binjiang Avenue by the Huangpu River in Pudong, Shanghai Party Secretary Xi Jinping ignited the flame and declared the Law Enforcement Torch Run open in Shanghai, the Special Olympics' host city.


"The Special Olympic Games will encourage more intellectually challenged people to walk out of their homes and prove 'I know I can' with their courage and skills," said Shanghai Mayor Han Zhen.


"I am looking forward to the opening of the Games."


Timothy Shriver, the chairman of the Special Olympics International, said the flame traveled 35,000 kilometers, attracting 900 million onlookers. But "we still have a long way to go to attract everyone to become a fan of the Special Olympics."


Carrying the Flame of Hope, nearly 100 law enforcement officers, volunteers and athletes, all dressed in red vests with the Special Olympics logo printed on the back, boarded a cruise ship that took them to the Yangzijiang Wharf at Puxi, or west Shanghai.


The cruise ship sailed under a brilliant display of fireworks to mark the occasion.


From the wharf, they ran through Huangpu Park along the Bund and brought the flame to New Century Square on Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall.


The torch will then be relayed to 10 routes crisscrossing Shanghai's 18 districts and Chongming County from today until Tuesday.


On Tuesday night, the torch will reach Shanghai Stadium to light up the holy flame for the Games' opening ceremony.


This year's was the longest Law Enforcement Torch Run, with the most people participating, covering the widest regions, and exerting the deepest influence on society, according to the Games' steering committee.


The Flame of Hope was lit in Athens on June 29. It was the first time China had gathered the holy flame in the birthplace of the traditional Olympic Games.


Before arriving in China, the flame visited seven countries around the world -- Greece, Egypt, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea -- from July to September.


The flame arrived in Beijing on the night of September 25, and since then has passed though 11 cities on the Chinese mainland as well as Hong Kong and Macau.


This year's Law Enforcement Torch Run was the first time that the flame has traveled globally before the Games.


The symbolic run was inaugurated in 1981 in the US when Kansas police chief Richard LaMunyon saw an urgent dual need for the Special Olympics -- to raise funds and increase awareness of the intellectually challenged.


The Games, starting on Tuesday and running until October 11, have attracted about 11,000 athletes and coaches from more than 160 countries and regions.


(Shanghai Daily September 30, 2007)

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