A shroud of mystery surrounds who Hong Kong will send to participate in the 2004 Olympic Torch Relay - a traditional event that signals the final build-up to this summer's sporting extravaganza in Athens, Greece. The specially selected Hong Kong athlete(s) will be announced by event sponsor Coca-Cola in two weeks, and the local star(s) will run a short leg of the relay in the port city of Salonika, Greece in July. Chung Pang, secretary general of the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China, says the 'chosen one(s)' would have sports in their blood. 'Candidates should be outstanding athletes, and they should be those who support the community and the promotion of sports. They should be people who have a lot of heart for Hong Kong,' says Chung, who competed in track and field at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. This year's international torch relay will visit 26 countries and 33 cities from June to August. The torch, which was lit on March 25 in ancient Olympia in Greece, will start its epic journey in Sydney, Australia on June 4 and for the first time will visit all five continents represented by the Olympic rings. From there it will wind its way around the globe, touching base in each of the Earth's continents before ending up in Athens for the opening ceremony on August 13. Twenty of the cities the torch will pass through are former Olympic hosts, including Tokyo, Los Angeles, Moscow and Barcelona. The torch will spend one or two days in each city, where up to 120 torch bearers will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to carry the Olympic icon for a short distance - usually about 400 metres. The development of the Olympic Games into a worldwide mega-event means the honour of carrying the torch has now become available to thousands. Coca-Cola has been involved in the Olympics for more than 76 years and has provided more than 10,000 people with a chance to carry the torch. In 1998, Hong Kong tenpin bowler Che Kuk-hung and fencing ace Cheung Wai-leung carried the torch in Japan ahead of the Winter Games in Nagano, and 40 years ago Hong Kong was honoured to be a port of call on the Olympic torch relay route for the 1964 Games in Tokyo - an event which Chung remembers fondly. 'The torch was carried by about 100 people during its two-day stopover in Hong Kong,' he says. 'It went from Kai Tak airport to City Hall where it rested overnight. The next day, it was taken to the Tsim Sha Tsui clock tower and then back to the airport. The whole sports community was involved. 'It brings people from all walks of life together and symbolises the unity of mankind. Whatever background people come from they can take part. Whether they are poor or rich, black or white, able or disabled - everyone can be involved.' While the torch is not visiting Hong Kong this year, it will soon. 'The next time the torch will pass through Hong Kong again will be before the 2008 Beijing Games - and we are looking forward to it,' he says.