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Envoy wants to be torchbearer for Olympics and Seychelles
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08:26, September 19, 2007

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Beijing will stage the biggest party ever when the first Seychelles ambassador to China celebrates his birthday next year.

Philippe Le Gall was born at 8 pm on August 8 - the time chosen for the opening of the Olympic Games - in 1954, and the diplomat from the island nation in the Indian Ocean finds the coincidence exciting.

"For my birthday, there will be a big party in China, and I am very proud of it," said Le Gall, laughing heartily, in an interview with China Daily.

But he does not want to stop at that - he has applied to be a foreign torchbearer for the Games.

Launched by Lenovo Group along with China Daily, the Expats for Olympic Torchbearers campaign - to last till the end of October - will select eight foreigners who embody the Olympic spirit.

Le Gall thinks he fits the bill: "Why not me?"

It is netizens who will decide by casting their votes online. A selection committee will pick the final eight from the top 100 candidates based on the number of votes they receive, as well as their backgrounds and other qualities. So far 80 foreigners have passed scrutiny to be candidates, and Le Gall, who has received 79 votes on the China Daily website, is one of them.

"When I was very young, I was fascinated by China," recalled the ambassador.

Le Gall first came to China in the early 1990s on a cultural exchange visit; and on his 10th visit at the end of April, he came to Beijing as an ambassador to open his country's embassy.

He said he has read lots of books about China, ranging from travel, poetry, philosophy and history to architecture. "Everything".

Not content with reading, he is writing a book about his impressions of China, which he calls "impressions of an islander in China".

The embassy officially opens today, 31 years after the two countries established diplomatic relations.

"Seychelles could not afford having embassies all around the world, so we had to make a choice," said Le Gall.

"But today, if you want to go global, you have to come to China. This is true for any major company, and also true for any country.

"When you consider the calendar of events (in China), you see the Games next year, the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010. The world is more and more moving to the pace of events in China," he added.

It was in February that the presidents of the two countries agreed to open a Seychellois embassy in Beijing during President Hu Jintao's visit to the island nation.

"I do remember President Hu Jintao said that the relationship between China and Seychelles is a model for relations between small and big countries, " said Le Gall.

Seychelles, which comprises 115 islands, covers a total land area of 455.38 sq km - less than half the size of Hong Kong region - and has a population of 85,000.

One of the embassy's missions is to try to "put Seychelles on the world map in the eyes of the Chinese people".

Fisheries, tourism and trade are the sectors the country most wants to promote collaboration with China, said the ambassador.

Some 34 million Chinese tourists go abroad each year but Seychelles, "the pearls of the Indian Ocean", gets only "a few hundred of them".

"It means that there is room for improvement," said Le Gall.

Source: China Daily



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