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Olympic torch leaves for Almaty, starting world tour
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13:32, April 01, 2008

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The Beijing Olympic torch relay officially embarked on its world tour as the charter Air China plane carrying the holy flame on Tuesday left Beijing for Kazakhstan's Almaty, the first stop of the 137,000 kilometers (85,000 miles) worldwide journey.

The 2008 Olympic torch was lit eight days ago in Ancient Olympia, Greece, and was hauled back to Beijing on Monday.

During its one-day stop in China's capital, where the 29th Olympic Games kick off on Aug. 8, the flame was given a warm-hearted welcome ceremony at Tian'anmen Square.

Chinese President Hu Jintao declared the start of the Beijing Olympic torch relay at the ceremony, marking the official start of the domestic and international torch relay that will end on Aug. 8with the Games' opening ceremony.

According to earlier reports, Almaty, Kazakhstan's biggest city, has been in full swing towards the torch relay campaign.

Still celebrating a traditional festival in holiday, staff concerning the torch relay in the municipal city all stay in their offices on extra shift and are making the last efforts on the preparative work of the torch relay.

"It will be the top honor for Almaty to welcome the Beijing 2008 Olympic flame as the first stop of the international segment," Serik T. Seidumanov, vice mayor of the city, told Xinhua last week.

"Now almost all the details have been carefully handled and our staff concerning have been in place. The last-minute preparation work has been under way in terms of technology and security. We do have a fully-packed agenda right now," added the mayor, who is responsible for the local torch relay.

On April 2, 80 torch bearers will be involved in the relay of the central Asian city, stretching about 20 kilometers long. It will be the first time for the holy fire to tour Almaty which has a population of 1.5 million.

Following the footsteps of the Athens Games, the Beijing relay is the longest and most ambitious ever planned and will last 130 days.

The holy fire of the Olympics will also reach Mount Qomolangma, the world's highest peak. It will be the first time for the Olympic torch relay to be held on the 8,844.43-meter mountain.

Source: Xinhua

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