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Olympic Torch Relayed on Mt. Qomolangma for First Time in History
    2008-05-08 09:16:55     Xinhua

Climber Norbu Zhamdu (L) lights the Beijing Olympic torch of the first torchbearer Gyigyi on Mt. Qomolangma on Thursday, May 8, 2008. [Photo: Xinhua]

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The Olympic flame made its first trip to Mount Qomolangma as Chinese mountaineers brought it to the top of the world at 9:12 a.m. Beijing time (0112 GMT) on Thursday.

The torch was lit at about one hundred meters away from the summit and then relayed upwards by five torchbearers.

The last bearer Tsering Wangmo, an ethnic Tibetan and one of the two female climbers on the final assault team, carried the torch to the peak.

The unprecedented relay lasted about six minutes.

"The successful ascent does not only belong to the Chinese Mountaineering Team, but also to our country," said Hu Jiayan, deputy director of the General State Administration of Sports.

Having promised to take the torch relay to Mt. Qomolangma in their bidding campaign, the Beijing organizers gathered a team of 36 climbers. Among them 19 were picked for the final assault starting from the 8,300-meter-high camp in early hours of Thursday.

The final team, dressed in red parkas emblazoned with Olympic logos, should have reached the top earlier. But in order to get better sunlight and hence clear-cut live footage for the TV audience, the climbers slowed down and finally topped the 8844.43-meter (29,035-foot) peak a little more than six hours later.

The 19-member final assault team consists of both ethnic Tibetans and Han Chinese, including university students and female climbers. They were spearheaded by ethnic Tibetan Nima Tsering and deputy head Luo Shen who is Han Chinese.

About 30 climbers, including the mountaineering team and the cameramen, scaled Mt. Qomolangma in gusty winds and freezing temperature.

The first four torchbearers are Gigi (female, ethnic Tibetan), Wang Yongfeng (male, Han Chinese), team captain Nima Tsering (male, ethnic Tibetan) and Huang Chungui (male, Han Chinese).

The climbers unfurled the Chinese and Olympic flags at the summit. Some took off their oxygen masks while topping the peak.

"I feel so good as the torchbearer. I know every climber wants to be a torchbearer," Gigi, a two-time Qomolangma climber, told the China Central Television (CCTV) ahead of the ascent.

The Olympic flame was kept in a specially-designed metal canister during the ascent. As the team neared the top, the 28-year-old Norbu Zhamdul, a three-time Qomolangma climber who carried the lantern on his back, opened the lantern, ignited the torch and then passed it to the 39-year-old Gigi.

The torch stayed alight and bright against strong winds, as all the torch, lighter and lantern used for the Qomolangma expedition are high-tech items capable of withstanding gale-force winds, low temperatures and the oxygen-thin air atop Mt. Qomolangma.

"We had planned to take the torch to the top in late April, but strong winds and heavy snow had delayed us again and again. This week we had the first period of good weather," said Li Zhixin, chief of the Base Camp Headquarters of the Torch Relay Qomolangma Leg.

"It is a strong team. Everyone is excellent and I feel so proud of them. We kept our promise and have made our own contribution to the promotion of the Olympic spirit," added Li, a well-known climber himself.

The Olympic flame's first Qomolangma trip was live televised by the CCTV.

Tsering Daintar, a younger brother of the last torchbearer Wangmo, scaled the summit as a CCTV cameraman.

Daintar is a student of the Tibetan Mountaineering School, whose principal Nima Tsering led Thursday's ascent.

The Beijing Olympic torch relay is the longest and most ambitious one, traveling 137,000 kilometers across five continents in 130 days. The torch returned to the Chinese mainland at the beginning of May and is touring South China's boomtown Shenzhen on Thursday.


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