The Olympic torch is expected to reach the top of the Himalayas a year early, Beijing 2008 Olympic organizers have said.
Having promised to take the torch relay over Qomolangma, the world's highest peak, the organizers now say the complex undertaking will get a trial run later this year.
"The torch will be designed specifically in order to burn at such a high altitude," Beijing Vice-Mayor Liu Jingmin said in an online interview. "The design is in the final stage."
Liu, who is also executive vice-president of the Beijing organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX (BOCOG), said the trial will be performed during a period of "safe weather" and will be televised.
The run will mark the first time the Olympic torch has appeared on Qomolangma.
"This rehearsal will be very important for a successful torch relay," Liu added.
Liu said a team of 55 mountaineers have been training, but he gave no further details about the test to reach the summit of Qomolangma, which lies on the border between China and Nepal.
The harsh natural environment on the mountain adds great difficulty to the torch relay, according to Liu. He added that the torch would be equipped with a special oxygen-supplying apparatus to make sure it stays lit in the thin air.
The torch is in the final stage of the design phase, and researchers are busy testing it.
"Our Olympic torches will embody a perfect blend of both delicacy and technique," Liu said.
The torch will be decorated with Chinese motifs, yet light enough so the torchbearers are able to carry it.
The torch of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games will be fetched from the site of Ancient Olympia in Greece in March next year. Runners will carry it through 28 cities on five continents and all provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities in China.
Liu said the route of the 2008 Olympics torch relay team would be released in April.
He added that testing the torch relay was one of BOCOG's six goals for this year, the year leading up to the Olympics.
He said Olympic venues and training sites should be finished by the end of this year.
Liu said preparations for the Games moved forward at a brisk pace last year, as the whole nation geared up for the event. More than 240,000 Beijingers had applied to work as volunteers at the 2008 Olympic Games by the middle of last month.
Liu said 26 test events would be held in 2007, but did not offer specific dates. Initial plans indicated that most of them would be held in the second half of the year.
The preparations are expected to include rehearsals of the opening and closing ceremonies, Liu said. He said recruitment of volunteers would be completed by the end of this year.
Source: China Daily/agencies