Everest torch run shrouded in secrecy
Chinese mountaineers make final preparations to take the Olympic torch up Mount Everest in a grand but contentious feat for the Beijing Olympics.Updated: May 01, 2008 13:11 IST
Chinese mountaineers made final preparations to take the Olympic torch up Mount Everest in a grand but contentious feat for the Beijing Olympics that is being accorded an unusual mixture of fanfare and secrecy.
State-run China Central Television began the first of what are billed as elaborate and technically difficult live broadcasts from Everest's base camp for the torch's journey up the world's tallest peak. Mountaineers were completing the setup of a staging point at 8,300 meters for the final assault on the 8,850-meter summit, CCTV reported.
Yet there was no word on the location of the torch, which mountaineers on the 31-member climbing team would go to the summit, their whereabouts and when they would scale the peak. The Website of 'Beijing Daily' likened the lack of information to a "mysterious veil that has surrounded base camp".
Some media reports had speculated that the climb could come as early as Wednesday - the 100-day countdown to the August 8-24 games - or Thursday - the May Day holiday. A brewing storm made a climb in the next three days unlikely, the Xinhua News Agency cited Yang Xingguo, the expedition's weather expert at base camp, as saying late Wednesday night.
Still billed as a spectacular event in the buildup to the August games, the Everest climb is being given mixed treatment. With the torch relay dogged by protests worldwide and Beijing's oft-criticised rule in Tibet drawing heated scrutiny after widespread anti-Chinese protests this spring, organisers have placed a premium on security.
The Everest torch, specially designed to burn in frigid, windy, oxygen-thin Himalayan air, is a sister flame to the one that made its way around the world and Wednesday reached Hong Kong, returning to Chinese territory after a month abroad. Organisers did not publicise the Everest flame's travel to base camp over the past month, apparently to avoid protests.
Beijing has also exercised its diplomatic clout, persuading neighboring Nepal to bar climbers from border-straddling Everest's southern face to keep potential protesters from reaching the peak and spoiling the torch's moment.
But the secrecy has also dented plans by organisers and CCTV, which spent heavily on special broadcast facilities, to
promote a torch run that is physically challenging but that has been criticised by Tibetan activists as a symbol of Chinese domination of Tibet.
State media and Olympic officials have gushed that the Everest climb would symbolise universal Olympic ideals and have largely omitted talk about Chinese dominance.
A local newspaper in Hubei province last week said that the ascent would "create a peak for Olympic history and give expression to the acme of the Olympic spirit".