The idea was for the torch relay to scale new heights but when high-profile TV personality and Beijing goodwill ambassador Yang Lan unveiled plans in Moscow for the flame to be held aloft on the summit of Mount Everest, there was no talk of insurmountable odds. It was a prominent element of the Beijing bid committee's proposal to the International Olympic Committee. A year ago the idea was still alive. Bocog media and communications department deputy director Sun Weijia said the torch would be carried up the peak's south face and brought back down the northern side. Sun said preparations for the relay were under way and a team of climbers would be chosen in 2004. 'We're going to select around 80 climbers aged 18 to 23,' he said. 'From then on, they will undergo specialised training for a mountain torch relay.' He even promised live TV broadcast of the event. Sun acknowledged the difficulty but said it would be a 'bright chapter' in Olympic history. 'We shall choose a right time under favourable weather conditions to accomplish the mission,' he said. A rehearsal was planned for 2007. But early this year, Bocog said it did not know if the idea was technically or financially feasible. The original idea was for two climbers - one from Tibet and the other from another part of the nation - to scale the world's highest mountain with the Olympic flame. It was supposed to be a gesture of friendship aimed at easing tension between Beijing and Tibet. Officials said they did not now know if the climb would go ahead. 'We promised the world we would bring the Beijing Olympic torch to Mount Everest,' said Zhang Ming, deputy chief of the Beijing Games' cultural activities department. '[But] when we made the promise, we hadn't done any feasibility studies.' Bocog deputy president Jiang Xiaoyu said the high cost of mounting the venture would be a factor, particularly in light of IOC suggestions to scale down the size of the Games. 'We are still discussing the plan and it will be finalised at the end of next year,' he added. The IOC recently drew up a range of cost-cutting proposals for host countries and suggested the torch relay last no more than 100 days. Bocog has already entrusted the China Mountaineering Association with soliciting torchbearers for the event. But Zhang Zhijian, an official with the association, was noncommittal when asked for details regarding his preparation. 'We're still discussing the matter,' Zhang said. 'In April 2003, several mainland mountaineers reached the top of Mount Everest and CCTV had a live broadcast with the help of three Tibetans.' Some professional mountaineers have described the proposed torch relay as mission impossible. They said no mountaineer could dare promise to reach the top of Mount Everest, let alone succeed in broadcasting footage from the peak. There is also the question of how to keep the flame burning in the thin, high-altitude air. Beijing Olympic Economic Research Association official Chen Jian said is was very likely the bold plan would have to be scrapped. 'The cost of implementing such a plan will be unexpectedly high and the safety of the TV crew and torchbearers couldn't be assured,' Chen said. But he added that even if the idea was dumped it did not mean the bid presentation was pie in the sky. 'Taking the Olympic flame to Mount Everest is the wish of the Chinese people,' he said.