Climbers ready to carry Olympic torch to Mount Everest summit

24th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

Chinese mountain climbers are ready to carry the Olympic torch, which will be lit in Greece on Monday, to the summit of Mount Everest despite the unrest in Tibet.

24 March 2008

Beijing (dpa) - Chinese mountain climbers are ready to carry the Olympic torch, which will be lit in Greece on Monday, to the summit of Mount Everest despite the unrest in Tibet.

"We are ready for the challenge," Pemba Dondrup, a 29-year-old Tibetan athlete, who made his first ascent to the top of the world's highest mountain in 2006, told Xinhua news agency.

"The unrest in Lhasa last week will not change our plan," said the athlete who just returned with his teammates from 5 months of training to carry the Olympic torch in May to the 8,444m summit.

Buddhist monks demonstrated in the Tibetan capital Lhasa on March 10, the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule. Five days later anti-Chinese rioting shook the city with Beijing claiming 22 people died in the rioting, but Tibet's government-in-exile says the figure was closer to 100.

Olympic Games organizers said on Wednesday that the torch relay will go ahead as planned despite concerns over security in Tibet.

The sacred flame begins its 137,000-kilometre journey with a 30-minute ritual in Ancient Olympia on Monday and is scheduled to arrive in China on March 31 when a grand ceremony will be held at the Beijing Tiananmen Square.

The torch's relay, involving 21,780 torchbearers, will cover 134 cities on five continents and end on August 8 at the main Olympic stadium in Beijing.

On Sunday, one of Thailand's torchbearers pulled out from the Bangkok leg of the relay, scheduled for April 19 to protest the Chinese crackdown in Tibet.

Narisa Chakrabongse, one of six environmental activists selected to bear the torch, wrote in an open letter published in the Bangkok Post: "The slaying of the Tibetans ... is an outright violation of human rights. This reflects the Chinese government's negligence of world sentiment."

She urged Beijing to urgently review its policy towards Tibet. In addition to the six environmentalists, 80 other Thais have been chosen to carry the torch 250 metres each through Bangkok.

Numerous protests by pro-Tibet campaigners are expected to follow the torch around the world.

[Copyright dpa 2008]

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