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Tanzania dances for joy at torch's sub-Sahara debut
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08:16, April 14, 2008

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They came in countless numbers, young and old, men and women, and from near and far.

They walked, jogged, danced and ran after - some barefooted - local torchbearers, who carried the flame on its first trip to a sub-Saharan country.

The 5-km relay yesterday marked the debut of the Olympic flame - a symbol of humanity's common ideals of friendship and peaceful coexistence under the Olympic spirit - in the region widely acknowledged as the birthplace of the human race.

The flame visited Egypt during the Athens 2004 Olympic global torch relay but it has never been to any of the 46 countries located south of the Sahara desert, where tens of millions of the world's most impoverished live.

That all changed yesterday, when descendants from the home of Mitochondrial Eve, the Mother of us all, joined their distant relatives from other continents on this most inclusive relay.

Beijing Olympic Torch Relay spokesman Qu Yingpu said: "It was so touching to see kids take off their shoes and socks when a pool of water submerged a section of the route... at that moment, Olympic passion and the Olympic spirit soared."

Dar es Salaam - which means abode of peace in Arabic - was the first city in the world to sign the 2008 Olympic torch relay pact on the date, itinerary and local participation of the relay.

"As the African continent has never hosted an Olympic Games, and Tanzania has never hosted an Olympic torch relay, China would like to share with African people the passion, glory, dreams and joys of the Olympiad," Chinese ambassador to Tanzania Liu Xinsheng told China Daily.

Mayor Adam Kimbasa said at the opening ceremony of the torch relay: "It is my hope that the torch relay will put the city under the spotlight and the whole world watches us."

Tanzanian National Olympic Committee President Gulam Rashid congratulated all torchbearers and said the short distance they ran with the torch would be something they would remember all their lives.

John Francis, torchbearer and a marathon trainer for the 2008 Games: "It's a great honor for me and a huge privilege. When I was holding the torch, I felt I was standing at the center of the world... and also felt the blessings of the Chinese people along my run."

The Tanzania-Zambia Railway - where the relay opened - particularly drew tears from the local Chinese community.

"For the Chinese who lived here through the 60s and the 70s of the last century, the Tanzania-Zambia Railway, which was built with aid from China, represents a great ideal and stands as a great symbol of China-African friendship.

Following the two-hour relay, the Olympic flame left the Tanzanian city late last night for Muscat, capital of Oman.

Source: China Daily




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