Maybe it was post-Olympic syndrome, or the heat, but the East Asian Games torch relay proved much less of a draw for Hongkongers than the one before the Beijing Olympics. On one of the hottest days this summer, just 9,500 people turned up yesterday in Tsim Sha Tsui and Wan Chai to see the two-hour relay. In contrast, about 100,000 witnessed the eight-hour Beijing Olympics torch relay last year. Onlookers blamed a lack of promotion for the low turnout and an overall lack of interest in the city for the East Asian Games. Heat and thunderstorm warnings were in effect before the relay started. Temperatures hovered at 33 degrees Celsius and both torch-bearers and onlookers were sweating. Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, Games organising committee chairman Timothy Fok Tsun-ting and Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing officiated at a cauldron-lighting ceremony at Kowloon Park. 'You can't compare the East Asian Games with the Olympics. But I believe it will be equally splendid,' Mr Tsang said. Cyclist Wong Kam-po started the relay. Another 41 torch-bearers ran in Tsim Sha Tsui along Nathan Road, Salisbury Road and the Avenue of Stars. Among them were national team gymnast Li Xiaopeng, who passed the torch to badminton player Wang Chen near Miramar Shopping Centre. The sealed-off road was extremely quiet compared to its usual days of overwhelming traffic. But when Li approached with his torch, the two were welcomed by a wave of national flags and cheers. The next torch-bearer, Eason Chan Yik-shun, proved a bigger draw. Fans holding cards bearing the singer's name screamed as he ran along Nathan Road. The crowd got thinner along Salisbury Road and at many other points the relay was not received with much enthusiasm. 'There were too many people last time [before the Beijing Olympics]. This time there are fewer people,' said Leo Chan, 24, who waited for an hour before a torch-bearer passed him. Promotion of the relay had been inadequate, he said. If it had not been for the controversy aired in the media about whether the cauldron-lighting ceremony should have been held at TVB Studios or not, he said he would not have known about it. Steven Lee, a mainland tourist in his 50s, missed the relay by 10 minutes. 'If I had known about it, I would have come earlier,' he said. While eight torch-bearers boarded a ferry to carry the torch across Victoria Harbour, Abama Lee, 37, also raced from Tsim Sha Tsui to Wan Chai to gain vantage points from which to take photographs. Mr Lee, with a ladder, camera and tripod in hand, said he had seen the Olympic torch relay last year but 'people are less interested in the East Asian Games than in the Olympics'. Windsurfer Lee Lai-shan, the final torch-bearer, carried the flame to Golden Bauhinia Square for the cauldron-lighting ceremony. 'Hong Kong is our home,' she said. 'I believe athletes will attain better results than at the last East Asian Games.' About 500 schools, with more than 400,000 students, will stage a campus version of the torch relay from September to November. The Games begin on December 5.