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Olympic torch flies to oasis city
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08:39, June 18, 2008

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The Olympic flame was flown across the Taklimakan Desert to Kashgar yesterday after a successful relay in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang autonomous region.

The relay in Kashgar, Xinjiang, an oasis city on the Silk Road, will be held today. Tomorrow, the torch will pass through Shihezi, an industrial city and Changji, the seat of the Changji Hui autonomous prefecture.

In Urumqi yesterday, Abuduxiku Mijiti the Uygur "boxing champion", led off the relay in which 208 people took part. The 37-year-old from the Yili Hazak autonomous prefecture, Xinjiang, won more than 10 national boxing contests.

"I am so happy to have run with the Olympic torch in my home of Xinjiang," he said.

The torchbearers included people from the Hazak, Korean, Russian and Xibo ethnic groups.

"We want to show Xinjiang's rich cultural diversity as well as its long history and bubbling economy," Nu'er Baikeli, chairman of the autonomous region, said.

Along the route, the torchbearers passed several landmarks of Urumqi, a city built in the early 18th century.

People Square, the starting point of the relay, was once a garden with a large lotus pond when Urumqi, then called Dihua, was first built. The pond disappeared and the site became a central square in 1934.

The relay route included the 242-year-old Rainbow Bridge, the first bridge on the Urumqi River and the West Garden where pavilions were built and trees were planted more than two centuries ago. It ended at the Xinjiang Sports Stadium, the largest stadium in Northwest China.

"We hope that Xinjiang will become even more beautiful with the Olympic flame passing through it," Wang Yanhong, the last torchbearer, said. Wang won a gold medal in archery at the 2004 Athens Paralympics.

After Xinjiang the relay will be staged for one day in the Tibet autonomous region and then for three days in Qinghai province.

Source: China Daily

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