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American Joins Torch Relay in Quake-hit Sichuan
    2008-08-03 19:41:39     CRIENGLISH.com

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The 2008 Olympic torch relay has begun in Sichuan, the last province in which the flame will travel before returning to the Olympic host city Beijing. Although Sichuan is not hosting any Olympic events, it has garnered much media attention largely because of the massive May 12 earthquake.

In today's show, CRI's reporter Luo Dan will introduce an American torchbearer whose company is helping the reconstruction efforts in Sichuan's quake-hit areas.

Gregory Gilligan, the Head of Government Relations for McDonald's Corp. (China), in an office of the American Chamber of Commerce in China July 30, 2008. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com]

There are already quite a few foreigners who have joined the Olympic torch relay in China, but McDonald's executive Gregory Gilligan believes his association with the flame is special. The reason is simple: the place where he is running with the torch is earthquake-hit Sichuan Province.

"The opportunity to run as a torchbearer in Sichuan is an incredible honor for me. It is also a time for reflection -- for us to think about the victims of the earthquake disaster, and think about the tragedy that's occurred, the bravery that's occurred, both among the victims and aid workers and rescue workers who have been there. And it is just really an important time for people to reflect on what has happened and to think about how to best move forward."

Many torchbearers in Sichuan were chosen for their actions in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. Gilligan says he is not among them; but he is proud to represent McDonald's contributions to the relief efforts. After the quake, the fast-food chain used its strong distribution system to quickly deliver meals to those affected.

"Immediately after the earthquake, we helped to feed people. We provided food for earthquake victims. We provided food for relief and rescue workers. I think in the first a few days, we provided free of charge around 35 thousand meals for people, who maybe otherwise did not have any place to go or did not have food."

Gilligan says McDonald's also provided financial assistance to local disaster relief organizations.

"On another level, we provided on many occasions financial assistance. During the first few days of the tragedy, we provided money to relief organizations. Since that time, we've also stepped up our efforts in other areas. We're prepared to rebuild schools around the epicenter. We've put funds in place behind a dedication ceremony, where we're going to give away ten ambulances to hospitals that lost their resources after the quake."

The earthquake is only one element that stirs Gilligan's heartstrings as a torchbearer in Sichuan. As a governor of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, Gilligan says he also felt honored to run with the flame in Guang'an, the hometown of former Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping, who helped initiated the country's reform and opening-up policy.

"For me to be able to be in Guang'an, in Deng Xiaoping's hometown on the 30th anniversary of reform and economic opening-up policy, which is also an Olympic year, the significance goes on and on. Those policies put in place and carried on through today have allowed multinational companies, including McDonald's, to grow and prosper and to be a very positive part of the economic miracle that is China."

The American says the country's opening-up policy was also part of what attracted him to come to work in China 12 years ago and later marry a Chinese woman.

McDonald's is a favorite brand of many children in China. It is also a worldwide sponsor of the Olympic Games. Gilligan says his company has unveiled a plan to better combine these two elements during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"We have a program called 'Olympic Champion Kids,' where children from all around the world, including China, can come to China and be part of the Olympic Games. And then they will be ambassadors or mini-reporters for what they experience and share that with people back home. I think there will be around 100 children from China and about 150 children from the world. That is really a significant program."

The 2008 Olympic Games is the largest of its kind in terms of scope. So what about Gilligan's favorite events? He has this to say.

"It is hard to choose one. But I will be so excited about anything that involves either the American or the Chinese team. As an American, I will be naturally rooting for the Americans, and as a long-time resident of China, my adopted home, I'll be rooting for the Chinese team as well. So anything that the American or Chinese team will play in will get my interest."

(Reporter/Editor: Luo Dan)

 
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