August 3, 2008

Olympic Torch Relay Ends First Leg in China’s Quake-Hit Sichuan 3 Aug

Text of report in English by official Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency)

[Xinhua: "2nd Ld-Writethru: Olympic Torch Relay Ends First Leg in Quake-Hit Sichuan Province"]

GUANG'AN, Sichuan Province, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) - The Olympic torch relay wound up on Sunday morning in Guang'an City, the first leg in the earthquake-hit Sichuan province in Southwest China.

At 9:10 a.m. local time, the final torchbearer Wang Jianjun, also party chief of Guang'an, ran into the city's exhibition centre and lit a ceremonial flame cauldron, which marked the end of the 90- minute 7.3-km route.

A total of 189 torchbearers, aged between 15 to 85, took part in the torch relay in Guang'an, famous as the birthplace of former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China's reform and opening up drive.

The starting point of the Guang'an torch relay was the Exhibition Hall of Deng Xiaoping's Former Residence.

Following a one-minute silence tribute to those killed in a deadly earthquake that hit Sichuan on May 12, the torch relay started at 7:40 and the first torchbearer was Jiang Min, a policewoman in Pengzhou city near the epicentre of Wenchuan.

The policewoman, who lost 10 relatives including her two-year- old daughter and her parents in the catastrophe, had moved the hearts of all the Chinese by standing at the front lines of relief efforts.

"My stretch is just more than 30 metres. But it is one of the most important and unforgettable stretches of memory in my life," Jiang told Xinhua.

"I want to tell the whole world that Chengdu (the provincial capital) is still beautiful and Pengzhou is still beautiful," she said. "I will bring the Olympic spirit to my work and we can rebuild the homeland through our joint efforts."

Another torchbearer Tang Lin, who was the Olympic judo champion at the Sydney Games and is currently a judo coach, said it was really honoured and pleasant to carry the torch.

"My life is tied with judo. Being a judoka or a coach, I am always enthusiastic about the Olympics," the 32-year-old champion said after running the third stretch.

Holding Chinese and Olympic flags, thousands of people lined along the 7.3-km route to support the 189 torchbearers with loud applause and cheers.

Many held banners with the Olympic slogans "One World, One Dream" and "Light the Passion Share the Dream."

Guang'an lies between the hills of central Sichuan and the gorges areas of the east. Because of its strategic location, it is called the gateway to eastern Sichuan.

Guang'an was the first leg of the torch relay in Sichuan. Following it, Leshan and Chengdu would also hold the torch relay.

Sichuan was severely hit by an 8.0-magnitude earthquake on May 12. The death toll from the quake has reached nearly 70,000, while nearly 20,000 others are reported missing.

After the earthquake, the Beijing Olympic organizing committee, or the BOCOG, adjusted the relay route and decided to pass the Olympic torch through Sichuan from Aug. 3 to 5.

After Sichuan, the Olympic flame will arrive in the host city Beijing on Aug. 6, two days prior to the opening of the Games.

Originally published by Xinhua news agency, Beijing, in English 0738 3 Aug 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.