Olympic torch begins its World tour
The Olympic torch on Tuesday officially set off to its first stop, Kazakhstan's Almaty, on its round-the-globe journey to ignite the enthusiasm and fervour for the Beijing Olympics that has come under the shadow of unrest in Tibet.
A specially chartered Air China plane carrying the flame left Beijing on its longest-ever Olympic torch relay route in the Games' history to cover 137,000 kms in its worldwide odyssey.
The torch was re-lit by Chinese President Hu Jintao at a grand ceremony at the Tiananmen Square, the world's largest, yesterday reflecting the prestige and pride that China associates with the Games to herald its arrival as a modern power on global stage.
The ceremony was held in a festive and pompous atmosphere, hours after the torch was brought in an encased lantern by a special aircraft from Greece, in front of a carefully chosen groups of people amidst tight security.
"From today, the flame will be carried across the globe, creating anticipation and excitement for the Beijing Games wherever the relay passes," the International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said in a message read out at the ceremony by the IOC Coordination Commission Chairman Hein Verbruggen.
"All along the relay route people will be touched by the magic of the Olympic games and what it represents," Rogge said, as the torch relay marked the symbolic start of the Games, which is a realisation of a long-cherished dream for China.