The 2008 Summer Olympics Torch Relay will run until August 8, 2008, prior to the Games of the XXIX Olympiad. Plans for the relay were announced on April 26, 2007, in Beijing, China.[1] The relay, with the theme "Journey of Harmony", is expected[2] to last 129 days and carry the torch 137,000 km (85,000 mi) — the longest distance of any Olympic torch relay since the National Socialist German Workers' Party started the tradition at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

After being lit at the birthplace of the Olympic Games in Olympia, Greece on March 24, the torch traveled to the Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens, and then to Beijing, arriving on March 31. From Beijing, the torch is following a route passing through six continents. The torch will visit cities along the Silk Road, symbolizing ancient links between China and the rest of the world. The relay also included an ascent with the flame to the top of Mount Everest on the border of Nepal and Tibet, China from the Chinese side, which was closed specially for the event.[3]

In many cities along the route, the torch relay has been met by protesters representing a range of political issues, particularly those related to China's human rights record, the struggle for freedom in Tibet, the genocide in Darfur, China's support to dictatorships in Myanmar and Zimbabwe, North Korean defectors, territorial disputes over the Spratly and Paracel Islands with Vietnam, Falun Gong persecution and the political status of Taiwan, resulting in violence at various locations. These protests, which ranged from tens of thousands of people in San Francisco,[4] to effectively none in Pyongyang, have forced the path of the torch relay to be changed or shortened on a number of occasions. The torch was extinguished by Chinese security officials several times during the Paris leg for security reasons.[5]

The protests in Europe were described as "despicable" by the Chinese government, condemning them as "deliberate disruptions...who gave no thought to the Olympic spirit or the laws of Britain and France" and who "tarnish the lofty Olympic spirit", and vowed they would continue with the relay and not allow the protests to "impede the Olympic spirit"[6]. Large-scale counter-protests by overseas Chinese and foreign-based Chinese nationals became prevalent in later segments of the relay.

Prompted by the chaotic torch relays in Europe and North America, the president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge described the situation as a "crisis" for the organization and stated that any athletes displaying the Flag of Tibet at Olympic venues could be expelled from the games,[7][8] though he stopped short of cancelling the relay altogether despite calls to do so by some IOC members[9]. The outcome of the relay will likely influence the IOC's decision on whether or not to scrap global relays in future editions of the games.[10]

In June 2008, the Beijing Games' Organizing Committee announced that the planned international torch relay for the Paralympic Games had been canceled. The Committee stated that the relay was being canceled to enable the Chinese government to "focus on the rescue and relief work" following the Sichuan earthquake.[11]

Relay elementsEdit


Official 2008 Summer Olympics Torch in Vilnius

2008 Olympic Torch on display in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Main article: Olympic Flame

The Olympic Torch is based on traditional scrolls and uses a traditional Chinese design known as "Lucky Cloud". It is made from aluminum. It is 72 centimetres high and weighs 985 grams. The torch is designed to remain lit in 65 kilometre per hour winds, and in rain of up to 50 millimetres per hour.[12] An ignition key is used to ignite and extinguish the flame. The torch is fueled by cans of propane. Each can will light the torch for 15 minutes.[13] It is designed by a team from Lenovo Group. The Torch is designed in reference to the traditional Chinese concept of the 5 elements that make up the entire universe.

The Olympic Flame is supposed to remain lit for the whole relay.[14] When the Torch is extinguished at night, on airplanes, in bad weather, or during protests (such as the several occasions in Paris[15]), the Olympic Flame is kept alight in a set of 8 lanterns.

Internationally, the torch and its accompanying party travels in a chartered Air China Airbus A330 (registered B-6075), painted in the red and yellow colours of the Olympic Games.[16][17] Air China was chosen by the Beijing Committees of the Olympic Game as the designated Olympic torch carrier in March, 2008 for its long-standing participation in the Olympic cause. The plane will travel a total of 85,077 mi (136,918 km)for a duration of 130 days through 21 countries and regions.[18][17]


Main article: 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay route
Beijing 2008 Torch Relay Route (China)

2008 Torch Relay in China

Beijing 2008 Torch Relay Route

2008 Olympic Torch Relay. The original Taiwan route shown in red.

The announced route will carry the torch through six continents from March 2008 to May 2008 to August 2008. The planned route originally included a stop in Taipei between Ho Chi Minh City and Hong Kong, but there was disagreement in Beijing and Taipei over language used to describe whether it was an international or a domestic part of the route. While the Olympic committees of China and Chinese Taipei reached initial consensus on the approach, the government of the Republic of China in Taiwan intervened, stating that this placement could be interpreted as placing Taiwan on the same level as Hong Kong and Macau, an implication it objected to. The Beijing Organizing Committee attempted to continue negotiation,[19] but further disputes arose over the placement and usage of the flag or the anthem of the Republic of China along the 24 km torch route in Taiwan.[20] As of the midnight deadline for concluding the negotiation on September 21, 2007, Taiwan and China were unable to come to terms with the issue of the Torch Relay. In the end, both sides of the Taiwan Strait decided to eliminate the Taipei leg.[21]


  1. "Beijing 2008: BOCOG Announces Olympic Torch Relay Route", International Olympic Committee, 2007-04-26. Retrieved on 2007-04-26.
  2. Officials Expect Olympic Torch to Continue on Route.
  3. "Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay Planned Route and Torch Design unveiled", BOCOG, 2007-04-26. Retrieved on 2007-04-26. See also: 'No change in Tibet torch rally route', Times of India, Retrieved on 10 April 2008.
  4. Olympic torch San Francisco | Salon News
  5. "Paris protests force cancellation of torch relay.",, 2008-04-07. Retrieved on 2008-04-07.
  6. China condemns "despicable" torch disruptions, Reuters. April 7, 2008.
  7. IOC flags athlete free speech dilemma, The Australian. April 12, 2008.
  8. Olympic Official Calls Protests a ‘Crisis’, The New York Times. April 11, 2008.
  9. IOC mulls cancellation of torch relay, USAToday. April 8, 2008.
  10. IOC mulls abandoning international routes in future, The Economic Times. April 8, 2008.
  11. "International torch relay for Beijing Paralympic Games cancelled", Xinhua, June 25, 2008
  12. The Beijing Olympic Torch, The Official Website of the 2008 Summer Olympics Torch Relay
  13. 示威不斷 聖火難傳 境外是否續運 奧委周五定奪, Apple Daily.
  14. The Torch Relay lantern, The Official Website of the 2008 Summer Olympics Torch Relay
  15. "La Chine condamne les troubles sur le parcours de la flamme", France 24, April 8, 2008
  16. Olympic Torch Emits 5,500 Tons of CO2, ABC News (April 9, 2008).
  17. 17.0 17.1 Air China Successfully Wins the Title of 'Designated Olympic Torch Carrier', Reuters (March 18, 2008).
  18. Air China Carries the Olympic Torch around the Globe.
  19. "Taiwan rejects China's torch relay plans", USA Today, 2007-04-26. Retrieved on 2007-04-26.
  20. Editorial: New Olympic event: Torch tug-of-war. Taipei Times.
  21. Taiwan, China Fail to Reach Agreement on Olympic Torch Route.

External linksEdit

Official sites Edit

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