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Relay tribute to Olympian No 1
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08:49, July 18, 2008

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In 1932, China took part in its first Olympic Games in Los Angeles. It sent just one athlete, sprinter Liu Changchun, who competed in the 100 m and 200 m and had the honor of carrying the national flag (unaccompanied) at the opening ceremony. He failed to win a medal, and his travel budget was so small, that the local Chinese community had to chip in to pay for his plane ticket home.

Yesterday in Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province, Liu Hongtu, Liu Changchun's second son - a retired engineering professor - closed his eyes and gave the Olympic torch a long kiss before setting off on the first leg of the relay.

"My father would have burst into tears if he were to see this," he said.

The Liu family has lived in Shenyang for several generations and has strong links with the Olympic torch relay. Liu Hongliang, Liu Changchun's eldest son - a professor at Beijing's Tsinghua University - carried the flame during the Athens leg of this year's event.

Yesterday's relay began at Phoenix Wing Square and ended at Ice World on Qipan Mountain, the home of Shenyang's annual Ice and Snow Festival.

Among the 241 torchbearers was popular comedian Zhao Benshan, who was sponsored by Lenovo.

"Being a torchbearer is the most unforgettable thing in my life, because it shows the trust society has in me," he said.

"I and my fellow comedians from the Northeast are preparing some interesting pieces about the Olympics, so we can cheer for the Games in the Northeastern way," he said.

Zhao hails from the small city of Tieling, near Shenyang.

Also running yesterday were 10 former world champions from Liaoning, including Zhuang Xiaoyan, a judo gold medal winner at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics; and Zhang Yuehong, a member of the women's volleyball team that took gold at the 2004 Athens Games.

Shenyang was the first stop on a three-day torch relay in Liaoning. Today, it will continue in Anshan, and tomorrow, move on to Dalian.

Source: China Daily



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