Expatica news

Olympic torch reaches Everest summit

8 May 2008   

BEIJING – A team of Chinese climbers on Thursday carried the Olympic flame to the 8,848-metre summit of the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest.

State television broadcast live pictures of the climbers reaching the summit and displaying the Olympic flame in several special high-altitude, wind-proof torches on the summit of Everest in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.

The entire team of 12 climbers reached the summit just after 9 am (0100 GMT) following a six-hour ascent from the final camp at 8,300 metres.

The mountaineers held Chinese, Olympic and Beijing 2008 flags and sent goodwill messages to their families and television viewers as they stood on the peak in mist and light snowfall.

State media said the team was led by Nima Ciren, head of the Lhasa Mountaineering Guide School in Tibet, and included seven other Tibetans.

The official Xinhua news agency said the team held a 30-metre torch relay on the summit of Everest, which straddles the border with Nepal and is known as Qomolangma in China, after its Tibetan name.

Vice President Xi Jinping and other leaders sent messages of congratulation to the mountaineers.

Xi, who is expected to replace Hu Jintao as leader of the ruling Communist Party in 2012, said the Everest torch relay team should serve as a model for all Chinese people working to host a "distinctive, high-level" Olympics in August.

Preparations for the summit attempt were delayed by heavy snow last weekend but Zhang Zhijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Mountaineering Association, on Wednesday said climbers had already reached the penultimate camp at 7,790 metres by Tuesday.

Exiled Tibetan groups and their supporters accuse the Chinese government of taking the Olympic torch to Everest to reaffirm its sovereignty over the region.

Widespread protests against Chinese rule began in many Tibetan areas of China in mid-March.

China’s alleged crackdown on the protesters, its refusal to hold dialogue with the Dalai Lama, and its torch relay through Tibet were the major targets of protests during many of the international legs of the relay last month.

The government suspended trips by foreign tourists and climbers to Everest before the torch relay on the peak.

It also asked Nepalese authorities to suspend climbing on the south side of Everest during the expected May 1-10 window for the summit ascent.

Tourists and climbers embarrassed the Chinese government in two separate incidents close to 5,200-metre Everest Base Camp last year.

Video footage taken in June by Romanian mountaineers showed a Tibetan collapsing onto snow after apparently being shot by a Chinese soldier as a group of Tibetans climbed a pass on the border with Nepal.

In April 2007, China deported five US citizens who staged a brief protest to support Tibetan independence at Base Camp.
[dpa / ANP / Expatica]