TORCH RELAY Beijing organisers have begun soliciting design proposals for the Olympic torch of the 2008 Games. 'We are expecting a creative and unique design that can showcase the unique characteristics of the Beijing Games - displaying Chinese style, cultural splendor and contemporary spirit - it should be a perfect blending of artistry and technology', Zhang Ming, from Bocog's culture and ceremonies department, said. In line with recent Olympiads, the torch should weigh about 1kg and cost about 1,500 yuan to produce, she said. Design proposals should include specifics on the fuel cradle and fueling canister, and suggestions for the cauldron where the Olympic flame will burn throughout the games. Designers of the top three picks will each be awarded 50,000 yuan, and the winning design will be unveiled in the middle of next year. Beijing has suggested the torch relay pass through Taiwan, but they have yet to publicly respond to the proposal. A full relay proposal, which is expected to take in the peak of Mount Everest, has been submitted to the IOC and a decision will be made in early 2007, Ms Zhang said. WHO NEEDS ENEMIES? During this week's visit to Beijing by well-known despot and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, the state press declared China and Belarus were ready to cooperate on the games. Liu Qi, Bocog's president, said the organising committee would 'enhance cooperation with Belarus to ensure a successful Olympics'. Liu would do well to pick his Olympic 'friends' a little more carefully. Back in the Salt Lake City winter Olympics Belarusian speedskater Yulia Pavlovich was found to have a steroid level of nearly 400 times the legal limit. In a subsequent investigation the IOC suspended the Belarusian National Committee after it discovered it had actively tried to prevent the athlete from being tested. As part of the punishment the national committee lost IOC grants of about US$120,000 that year. And who might the president of the Belarusian National Committee be? None other that our friend, Lukashenko.