No flame pass-along across fixed distances as usual practice, the Beijing 2008 Olympic torch relay over the world's highest summit will be merely carrying the torch to the mountaintop, according to the General Administration of Sport of China (GASC).
"Different from traditional concept of torch relay by passing along the holy flame of the Olympics from one person or station to another, the Beijing 2008 Olympic torch relay on the Mount Qomolangma (also known as Mt. Everest) is to have mountaineers climb up the peak carrying the torch and light it up on the mountaintop. Strictly speaking, it's an ignition ceremony, " Yu Liangpu, director of the Qomolangma Affairs Office of GASC Mountaineering Administration Center, told Guangzhou Daily on Wednesday.
According to Yu, the torch will ascend from the northern slope of Qomolangma in Tibet Autonomous Region via the 5200-meter Basic Camp and the 6500-meter Advanced Basic Camp, then the Attack Camp, to the world's tallest point for ignition. The flame will then be carried down along the same route back to the foot of the mountain, so the torch relay on Qomolangma is in fact not a cross-over from southern slope in Nepal before descending to the north due to safety concerns.
Since taking the Olympic torch to the world's highest peak should be a one-off success, safety questions have been raised. Yu, who is also a former dominant figure in China's mountaineering history noted, "That people involved in the relay will be put at risk is an overstatement to those who know well about the records of Tibet Mountaineering School which has so far no casualty in scaling the Qomolangma. The event is not in opposition to 'People's Olympics', which is one of the themes of the Beijing Olympic Games."
"We have recruited 50 climbers, primarily Tibetans from Tibet Mountaineering School and some college men for assembled and specialized training. Only ten of them will be selected as task bearers for the final torch carry," Yu said.
Against the doubt that greater pollution will result from more modern facilities brought up the mountain for the television broadcast, Yu said the carrying of facilities and filming of the entire proceedings will be assumed by climbers themselves. He also promised a thorough clean-up of the mission's trash such as daily waste and oxygen tanks after accomplishing the task.
Yu added that both the rehearsal and the real practice of the torch relay would be cost-effective and not as complex as imagined. "Since it's not necessary to set up relay stations along the ascending route, the torch relay will be simply a televised climbing of the mountain with a light-up ritual absent from too much extra spending. In practice, China Central Television (CCTV) has done a good job in a live broadcast of the Qomolangma ascent in 2003."
In 2001, Beijing Olympic organizers had promised to plant the holy fire of the Olympics onto the highest point on the globe, which will be one of the highlights of the torch relay for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
According to Beijing organizers, a rehearsal for the Olympic flame's first trip to the top of the world's highest mountain will start up in this May.