Olympic torch paraded on Great Wall

August 7th, 2008 - 3:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 7 (DPA) The Olympic torch relay reached the Great Wall of China on the eve of Friday’s lighting of the cauldron at the opening ceremony in Beijing’s National Stadium. Li Zhonghua, a former test pilot feted as a hero in China, was the first of 268 torch bearers on the 14.6-km route from the Badaling tourist section of the Great Wall in Beijing’s northern suburbs Thursday.

The second of three torch relay legs in the Olympic host city was scheduled to finish at the Ditan (Temple of the Earth) Park in the city centre, organisers said.

Tens of thousands of people lined Beijing’s main roads Wednesday for the first leg in Beijing.

China’s first astronaut to make a space flight, Yang Liwei, led the relay from the Forbidden City, just north of Tiananmen Square.

NBA basketball star Yao Ming and award-winning film-maker Zhang Yimou, the director of the Olympic opening ceremony, also carried the torch on Wednesday en route another historic Beijing landmark, the Temple of Heaven.

On its final leg on Friday, the torch relay will start from Zhoukoudian, the suburban site where the archaeological gem Peking Man was discovered.

The eight-kilometre leg will end at Beijing’s 101 District Middle School Friday, from where the torch will be transported to the National Stadium for the opening ceremony in the evening.

As always at Olympic Games, the identity of the final bearer of the 2008 torch relay, who will light the Olympic flame in a cauldron in the National Stadium during the opening ceremony, is a well-kept secret.

Speculation on the final bearer has shifted focus from current stars to two former Olympic champions: Li Ning, a triple gold medallist in gymnastics in 1984 and a successful sportswear maker since retirement; and Fu Mingxia, a four-time gold medallist and celebrity “diving queen”.

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