Beijing Olympics organizers on Thursday announced an ambitious plan for the torch relay for the 2008 Games which will see the sacred flame reach the world's highest peak and travel through 135 cities around the world.
According to the planned route, which was unveiled by Luo Gan, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and IOC President Jacques Rogge at a ceremony held at the Millennium Monument in downtown Beijing, the relay will cover 137,000 kilometers in 130 days before the flame finally arrives at the National Stadium in Beijing on Aug. 8, 2008, involving a total of 21,780 torchbearers.
"The Beijing Olympic torch relay, which will travel the longest route and involve the most people in the Olympic history, will display the beautiful Chinese scenery and rich culture to the world, as well as spread the ideas of peace, friendship and harmony, " said Jiang Xiaoyu, executive vice president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Games (BOCOG).
The relay, dubbed the "Journey of Harmony", is planned to begin on March 25, 2008, with the lighting of the flame at Olympia, followed by a one-week journey to Athens, where the Greek Olympic Committee passes the torch to a representative of China on March 30.
A grand launching ceremony for the torch relay will be held in Beijing on the following day to mark the start, with the flame heading for its first stop Almaty, Kazakhstan, on April 1.
"By crossing the five continents and going to new places, the Beijing 2008 torch relay will, as its theme says, be a journey of harmony, friendship and respect to people of different nationalities, races and creeds," said Rogge.
With about one year to go before the torch relay kicks off, Jiang said that the route is subjected to changes due to "unforeseeable incidents".
The torch relay will be highlighted by an attempt to bring the Olympic Flame to Mount Qomolangma.
Experienced mountaineers will be selected to carry the torch to the summit at any possible date in next May depending on the weather, said Jiang.
"The mountaineers will conduct a trial run of the ascent next month. The Chinese Central Television (CCTV) will air the event," he said.
Jiang also said that carrying the Olympic flame to Mount Qomolangma will not damage the environment there.
"Green Olympics is one of the three concepts of the Beijing Games, and we have issued a special manual aimed at protecting the environment," he said.
"The passing on the mountain will be a green journey."