Wed, August 06, 2008
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Olympic torch relay begins final leg

2008-08-06 00:13:30 GMT2008-08-06 08:13:30 (Beijing Time) Xinhua English

Liu Qi (2nd R), president of the Beijing Organizing Committee of the 29th Olympic Games (BOCOG), hands over the torch to the first torch bearer and the country's first astronaut Yang Liwei (3rd L) during the launching ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games torch relay in Beijing, China, Aug. 6, 2008. The Olympic torch relay began its final leg in Beijing from the Meridian Gate of the Forbidden City Wednesday morning. (Xinhua/Luo Xiaoguang)

Yang Liwei, the country's first astronaut, runs with the torch as the first torchbearer at the Meridian Gate of the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, Aug. 6, 2008. The Olympic torch relay began its final leg in Beijing from the landmark Forbidden City Wednesday morning. (Xinhua/Luo Xiaoguang)

Famous Chinese basketball player Yao Ming holds the torch during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games torch relay in Beijing, China, Aug. 6, 2008. The Olympic torch relay began its final leg in Beijing from the landmark Forbidden City Wednesday morning. (Xinhua/Li Ga)

Torchbearer Yao Ming holds the torch as he runs through the Tiananmen Gate during the 2008 Beijing Olympics torch relay in Beijing, August 6, 2008. (Reuters Photo)

The launching ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games torch relay is held at the Meridian Gate of the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, Aug. 6, 2008. The Olympic torch relay began its final leg in Beijing from the landmark Forbidden City Wednesday morning. (Xinhua/Luo Xiaoguang)

BEIJING, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) -- The Olympic torch relay began its final leg in Beijing from the landmark Forbidden City Wednesday morning.

At the Meridian Gate of the Forbidden City, the torch was handed over to the first bearer, Yang Liwei, the country's first astronaut, by Liu Qi, president of the Beijing Organizing Committee of the 29th Olympic Games (BOCOG).

The Olympic flame will travel in the Olympic host city for three days joined by a total of 841 torch bearers.

On its first day, the torch will travel 16.4 km in just over four hours through seven districts, passing city landmarks, including Tian'anmen Square, the egg-shaped National Center for the Performing Arts and Qianmen (the Southern Gate). It will end at the Temple of Heaven.

Among the 433 bearers, there are big names and ordinary people. Yao Ming, China's most popular basketball star, was the ninth bearer.

Zhang Yimou, the famed film director and chief director of the Games' opening and closing ceremonies, will also bear the torch on Wednesday.

After being lit at the birthplace of the Olympic Games in Olympia, Greece on March 24, the 2008 Olympics torch traveled to Beijing on March 31 for a ceremonial kick-off of its global trip.

Under the theme "Journey of Harmony," the relay lasted 129 days and took the torch 137,000 km through six continents, the longest distance of any Olympic torch relay since the tradition started at the 1936 Berlin Games.

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