Filipino torch-bearer over the moon

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 July, 2008, 12:00am

In the end it was all worth it for Filipino Marco Torres and his family. 'As a believer in the Olympic movement and a major sports fan...this a dream come true,' Mr Torres said after completing his 40 metres of fame as an Olympic torch-bearer in the Gansu city of Lanzhou on Monday.

Mr Torres, a Beijing-based senior marketing manager for interior design firm M Moser Associates, was one of eight foreigners chosen in an online competition to run in the relay.

He said security was extremely tight and at one stage family members were questioned by security personnel about why they did not have permits to be on the route and about a Filipino flag in the family's bag.

But, finally, Mr Torres' mother, who had flown in from the United States, his sister from the Philippines and a friend from Beijing were able to take up a prime position and watch him become the first Filipino since 1964 to run with the Olympic flame.

'It just goes to show how safe and secure it was,' he said. 'I am glad that they were able to watch me. I don't think the Philippines will be hosting the Olympics in the next 100 years.

'It was worth all the effort put into it - all the effort in campaigning and patience to wait for it to happen and all the effort 'for family and friends.'

Earlier, Tian Yu, the soft-spoken head of the paramilitary forces in Jialin Township in Longnan, Gansu, was picked to run the first stretch in recognition of his rescue work after the May 12 earthquake.

When the quake struck, Mr Tian was mourning his grandmother who had died the previous day but once he realised the scale of the disaster, he went into action, calling on his troops. In the following days, he used his bare hands to pluck eight people from the rubble and helped move more than 1,100 others to safety.

'I'm a soldier after all,' said Mr Tian. 'I must step up and fight in case of emergencies and risks.'

The torch relay started at 8.15am from the Sun Yat-sen Bridge, the oldest spanning the Yellow River, and wound up after four hours at the city's watermill museum, with Lanzhou-born CCTV star Zhu Jun running the last leg.

Zhu donated 200,000 yuan to the disaster-hit areas in Gansu and all the other torch-bearers also made donations.

The torch will head for Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, for a three-day run in the autonomous region starting on Tuesday.