Final stretch of torch relay held at cultural sites as world awaits Olympic flame to be lit
Published: Feb 04, 2022 05:42 PM Updated: Feb 05, 2022 02:04 AM
Photo:Liu Xiaojing/GT

Photo:Liu Xiaojing/GT

With less than 12 hours before the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games opens, the final legs of the three-day torch relay were passed both inside and outside the closed-loop, witnessed by representatives and celebrities from various fields including the President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach and retired woman's table tennis "champion reaper" Ding Ning, as the world holds its breath for the Olympic flame to be lit on Friday's grand opening ceremony.

The Olympic torch relay began its final stretch at the -10 C Summer Palace, an imperial garden built during Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) - the last dynasty in ancient China that best concentrates the treasures of Chinese culture.

A total of 97 torchbearers carried the torch over 6.2 kilometers through bridges, gardens, and palaces, including retired Chinese woman's table tennis player Ding Ning. She is the fifth Chinese woman to have achieved a "Grand Slam" in table tennis, with 21 world championship titles in her career, dubbed by netizens as the "champion reaper."

"The Olympic Games is an international platform of communication and friendship. I hope the athletes can give their best performances and enjoy their competitions, and more people can feel the charm of sports and excitement of the event!" Ding said while running with the torch. 

"We need to challenge and break our limitations no matter at the Summer or Winter Olympics. This is a kind of spirit and has few relations with grades. Especially for athletes, in fact, the Olympic venue is our most important stage," Ding said.

The torch relay continued its trek on Friday afternoon through Beijing to the city's Grand Canal Forest Park, part of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, after finishing its early morning trip at the Summer Palace. The first runner was former Olympic badminton champion Zhang Nan.

Zhang told the Global Times that he pays special attention to Shaun White, the American legend snowboarder, a four-time Olympian and three-time Olympic gold medalist at half-pipe snowboarding. "I look forward to appreciating his performance at the Beijing Winter Games," Zhang said. 

"I hope athletes from all countries can achieve good results at the Games. The Beijing Winter Olympics is able to break through all kinds of difficulties brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the world is bound to embark on a journey to a better future," Zhang noted. 

The canal, spanning over 1,700 kilometers through six provinces and cities, connects central Beijing to its outskirts and travels south to Hangzhou in East China's Zhejiang Province.

The Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games unveiled earlier in January that there will be about 1,200 torchbearers for the Winter Olympic Games and about 600 torchbearers for the Paralympic Games, among them the eldest is 86 years and the youngest is 14, coming from over 20 countries and regions.

The relay is scheduled between February 2 and 4, before it is eventually delivered to the "Bird Nest" National Stadium, the arena where the opening ceremony for the Games will be held. 

The torchbearers come from various parts of society, and most of them have made outstanding achievements or contributions to their own area or field, and some are also representatives and celebrities from all walks of life in fields like science, education, culture and health.

At the torch relay site, people performed Tai Chi and other traditional Chinese folk arts. Among them were members of a local Tai Chi association that once participated in the opening ceremony of the phenomenal 2008 Summer Olympic Games. 

The torch was also passed along inside the closed-loop, carried by the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach, former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and President of the United Nations General Assembly Abdulla Shahid.