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Olympic flame arrives in Beijing for pre-Games relay
08:44, August 06, 2008

The Olympic torch arrived in the host city Beijing on Tuesday afternoon, ready for the final leg of its global relay before the 29th Olympic Games open on Friday.

Following a simple reception at the Beijing Capital International Airport, the flame flown from Sichuan Province was sent to an undisclosed location until Wednesday morning, when the relay begins from the landmark Forbidden City in the heart of Beijing.

A total of 841 torch bearers will join the three-day relay across the city of 17 million people, including some big names, ranging from China's hero astronaut Yang Liwei to basketball superstar Yao Ming.


Xiang Zhaolun (R, front), deputy secretary-general of the State Council of China, and Cai Fuchao, vice mayor of Beijing, hold the the flame upon its arrival during a simple reception at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, China, Aug. 5, 2008. The Olympic flame arrived in the host city Beijing on Tuesday afternoon, ready for the final leg of its global relay before the 29th Olympic Games open on Friday.

The relay organizers said on Tuesday that the flame, on its first day, will travel 16.4 km in just over four hours with 433 bearers.

HERO ASTRONAUT TO KICK OFF RELAY

The relay will start from the Meridian Gate of the Forbidden City, Sun Xuecai, deputy director of the city sport department and deputy chairman of the organizing committee of the Olympic torch relay in Beijing, told a press conference.

Sun said the first bearer would be Yang Liwei, who became a national hero overnight after succeeding in China's first manned space mission in October 2003.

At the ceremony to be held at the Meridian Gate, Liu Qi, president of the Beijing Organizing Committee of the 29th Olympic Games (BOCOG), will hand over the Olympic flame to Yang, marking the start of the relay.

The torch will travel through seven downtown districts, passing city landmarks such as Tian'anmen Square, the egg-shaped National Center for the Performing Arts and the newly refurbished commercial district in Qianmen. It will end at the Temple of Heaven.

A grand ceremony will be held there. About 1,320 dancers will perform at the ceremony to receive the torch.


YAO WON'T LIGHT CAULDRON

Olympic enthusiasts have been kept guessing who would be the last torch bearer to light the main Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony Friday, a top honor for Olympic athletes.

But it won't be China's basketball superstar Yao Ming. The Houston Rockets player will be the ninth torch bearer on Wednesday, Sun announced.

Under Olympic regulations, each bearer can touch the torch only once during the relay, leaving no opportunity for Yao to kindle the flame in the National Stadium, or the Bird's Nest.

Zhang Yimou, the famed film director and chief director of the Games' opening and closing ceremonies, will also bear the scroll-shaped torch on Wednesday.

On Thursday, 268 bearers will carry the torch along a route of 14.576 km in eight districts and counties over about three hours.

Friday's route will be 7.902 km long. The relay will last one hour and 34 minutes involving 140 carriers.


TORCH COMES BACK TO BEIJING

After being lit at the birthplace of the Olympic Games in Olympia, Greece on March 24, the 2008 Olympics torch traveled to Beijing on March 31 for a ceremonial kick-off of its global trip.

Under the theme "Journey of Harmony," the relay lasted 129 days and took the torch 137,000 km through six continents, the longest distance of any Olympic torch relay since the tradition started at the 1936 Berlin Games.

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