National flags Guangzhou's best travel pass

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 May, 2008, 12:00am

Amid the celebrations surrounding the torch relay in Guangzhou , the small red national flag is not only being used to cheer on torch-bearers, it is bringing people together in unexpected ways.

With enthusiastic crowds swarming in from nearby cities, finding a taxi in Guangzhou yesterday was mission impossible. But few people seem to find this a problem. In a city caught up in the nationalistic fervour, the little red national flag has become the best travel pass for visitors.

Anyone looking for a lift need only wave the flag towards approaching cars and, in most cases, motorists will pull over, offer a free ride and drop people where they want to go as long as it is on the driver's route.

'Today, the distance between people's hearts is narrowed by the torch,' a motorist in his 40s said. 'It's the Olympics, and the Games make us feel different.'

The motorist took his four-year-old daughter out of kindergarten to see the relay - in spite of the warning over the outbreak of the deadly EV71 virus - and had just dropped her back at school when he offered rides to people stranded by temporary torch-relay traffic controls.

Almost all streets along the relay route were full of cheering spectators. A handful of young men were left stranded on a street corner, but a mini-truck drove by shortly afterwards and they all jumped on.

A large influx of spectators from neighbouring cities, most of them university students, added to the congestion, and in some places spectators could barely move. But few seemed upset.