Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Olympic flame lit on Everest peak

Olympic torch on summit of Everest

Chinese climbers bearing the Olympic flame have reached the summit of Everest, Chinese state media report.

Chinese television showed the climbers lighting the torch shortly after 0900 local time (0100 GMT) before taking the final steps up to the summit.

Correspondents say China is hoping the dramatic feat will counter some of the damaging publicity from the protests during the torch's international relay.

A previous attempt failed because of strong winds and snow storms.

The climbers, dressed in red padded anoraks bearing the Olympic logo, passed the flame between several torches as they approached the summit.

Huddled at the top they then unfurled Chinese and Olympic flags and cheered for the cameras.

The Olympic torch reaches the summit of Mount Everest

The main Olympic torch, which is running separately, is continuing its relay through China.

The torch was carried through the southern city of Guangzhou on Wednesday past cheering crowds with no reports of disruptions.

"The command centre has given its order for the final assault tomorrow," Beijing Olympics official Shao Shiwei told reporters at the Everest base camp on the Chinese side of the mountain late on Wednesday.

CHINA RELAY CITIES IN FOCUS
Detail from map of China
Use the map to see the full Olympic torch relay route or read about some of the key cities:

Heavy snowfall on the weekend had dealt a blow to the team, badly damaging several of the high-altitude camps set up to provide a jumping off point for the final ascent.

A group of mainly ethnic Tibetan climbers left camp at 8,300m before dawn on Thursday for the final assault on the peak.

Both China and Nepal sealed off their sides of the mountain and the ascent organisers kept the exact plans a secret because of fears it might draw protests from pro-Tibet activists.

Human rights activists have been angered by the crackdown on anti-Beijing protests in Tibetan areas of China in March that turned violent.

Mount Everest lies on the border between Nepal and Tibet, in China.

The main torch is scheduled to visit every province in China before arriving in Beijing several days before the Olympics begin on 8 August.

The international leg of the torch's tour was marred by protests in several cities - including London, Paris and San Francisco - by activists upset at China's human rights record.

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