Caution confines torch's travels to the homeland
President Hu Jintao lit the cauldron yesterday at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing to start the torch relay for the Asian Games in Guangzhou, which open on November 12.
After Hu pressed the button on the specially designed cauldron, the main torch was passed to Beijing Olympic men's 400 metres freestyle swimming silver medallist Zhang Lin, the first runner, according to Xinhua.
The Asian Games is the highest profile sports event to be held in China since the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The actual torch relay will stay within Guangdong province, even though the flame has been divided into two. The main flame will arrive in Zhongshan today, and the other flame will arrive in Harbin, Heilongjiang , tomorrow and go on to Changchun, Jilin , and Haiyang, Shandong , on Friday for demonstration runs only.
The confining of the official torch relay to Guangdong contrasted with that of the last Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, in 2006, when the flame travelled 50,000 kilometres through 13 countries and 23 cities in Asia. The decision came after difficulties marred the international leg of the torch relay of the Beijing Olympics, with anti-Chinese protests, particularly in the United States and western Europe. The relay became a major public embarrassment for Beijing organisers, who were eager to showcase the rise of China.
After the symbolic runs in northeast China, the main flame will be carried from Zhuhai to Dongguan , followed by Shenzhen on Monday. The relay will carry on through the province from Huizhou to the eastern cities of Shanwei, Shantou and Chaozhou before visiting Jieyang and Meizhou .
Heyuan will welcome the torch on October 25 and the northern city of Shaoguan on October 27. From there, the flame is expected to visit western Guangdong's Qingyuan, Zhaoqing, Yunfu, Maoming and Zhanjiang. On November 3, it will arrive in Jiangmen and get to Foshan the next day. The torch will finally reach the host city and provincial capital, Guangzhou, on November 6, where it will tour each of the districts, the downtown area and finally arrive at the opening ceremony, where the two flames will be reunited. In all, 21 cities in Guangdong will get to see the torch.
Security in Guangzhou has also been stepped up for the Asian Games. Passengers on the subway, ferries, trains and long-distance buses are expected to have to pass a security check before getting aboard. The Public Security Bureau announced this week that those who refuse to undergo security checks or violate security regulations could be fined up to 500 yuan (HK$581). Transport operators that refuse to establish security checkpoints for passengers could face a penalty between 5,000 and 10,000 yuan.
Residents will have to show identity cards before mailing anything to a hotel associated with the Games.
Flame does double duty
The split flame will be reunited for the opening in Guangzhou
The number of cities in Guangdong that will get a glimpse of the torch on its way to the opening ceremony is: 21