2008-06-30 07:59:36 GMT 2008-06-30 15:59:36 (Beijing Time) China Daily
Gao Minglu carries the Olympic torch onboard a wooden raft in Zhongwei, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region on Sunday. [Xinhua]
ZHONGWEI, Ningxia - Yan Qiang has never left the oasis at the southern end of the Tengger Desert where he was born 16 years ago, and he never had the chance to go to the cinema before this April.
Since then, he has been a regular at the twice-weekly movie shows in the main square of this oasis city in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region.
"I've seen most of the movies on television, but they look so impressive on the big screen. They amaze me every time I am here," said the shoe-repairer trainee.
More than 1,000 people were at the square on Saturday evening, watching an obscure Chinese police movie from the 1990s.
"Whenever we show an action film, there are always thousands of people at the square. Some have walked for miles from nearby villages," said an official from the city's broadcast, film and television bureau.
"People here don't like romantic films so much, because they can hardly hear the dialogue, and they don't care how old the movies are," she added.
The facilities for the open-air cinema were bought this April as part of the local government's "Welcoming the Olympics" program, said the official.
The Olympic flame passed through the city yesterday, where the streets were lined with local people in colorful ethnic costumes keen to catch a glimpse of it.
Famous author Zhang Xianliang, who kicked off the torch relay in Zhongwei, said: "It is the most glorious moment in my life, and I thank the people of Ningxia for giving me this honor."
Yesterday's relay, involving 205 torchbearers who ran for a total distance of 3.66 km, started from a patch of grass and shrubs called Shapotou on the southern bank of the Yellow River.
First planted in the 1950s, it has prevented the Tengger Desert, which surrounds Zhongwei, from encroaching upon the city and its farmland.