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THE Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay in Hong Kong (OTR) was held on May 2 as one of the most important ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic Games.


The OTR was organised by the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government.


Thousands of Hong Kong residents and visitors from the Mainland, many dressed in red, cheered the Olympic torch as it was proudly carried through the streets of Hong Kong on Friday, May 2.


The relay started at 10.30am with Olympic gold medallist windsurfer Lee Lai-shan the first to run with the torch. It was handed to her by the Chief Executive, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.


As he handed over the torch on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, Mr Tsang said, “Today, the Olympic Torch Relay resumes on Chinese soil after its global journey across five continents. It is a great and solemn honour for Hong Kong, ‘Asia’s world city’, to be the first city in China to welcome back the Olympic Flame on behalf of our proud nation.


“We are a world in a city, where different people, with different beliefs and different views have thrived in the spirit of diversity, tolerance and respect. This same spirit feeds the Olympic Flame, and makes it burn brightly.


“The Olympic ideals of friendship, fair play and solidarity are, indeed, universal ideals that are an intrinsic part of our society. We don’t just embrace them; they are part of what make us tick. As a cosmopolitan city of China, Hong Kong is uniquely placed to play this bridging role between the peoples of the world, and the people of our country,” Mr Tsang told the crowd that had started milling at the waterfront hours before.


Altogether, 119 torchbearers from all walks of life, including athletes, sports people, business people, legislative councillors and entertainers, took part in the relay, which took more than seven hours. The torch’s journey, the first leg of its tour through China, also included running, rides on horses, a vessel, a dragon boat and a golf cart!

Unlike other cities around the world, where the Torch Relay was marred by aggression, Hong Kong showed the world its image as a safe and civilised society. Extensive planning before Relay was marred by aggression, Hong Kong showed the world its image as a safe and civilised society. Extensive planning before the event meant that the few small disruptions were quickly dealt with.


In fact, the Torch Relay epitomised the spirit of “One Country, Two Systems”, with its mix of patriotic fervour and openness to views from all sides. At one point, Hong Kong Police Force calmly led protesters away from the torch route and steered them to safety.

 



One of the torchbearers was an artistic cyclist, Yu Sum-yee, who is also a Police Inspector, Patrol Sub-unit Commander (Sheung Shui Division). “I am so proud and overjoyed at being selected as one of the torchbearers in Hong Kong,” Mr Yu said after the relay. “It came as a surprise when I was told to attend a briefing a few days before the public announcement. On the Torch Relay day, while we were being transported to our designated legs, we kept talking about how enthusiastic we were to take part in this historic event. It was even more exciting when I arrived for my leg (No. 60 in Sha Tin), seeing the active engagement of thousands of local citizens and the atmosphere of harmony.”


From the Hong Kong Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui, the torch made a 25-kilometre journey, travelling past various landmarks in Kowloon, the New Territories and the Hong Kong Island, ending at Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai. Among the torchbearers were Canto-pop idols Andy Lau Tak-wah, Kelly Chen Wai-lam and Jacky Cheung Hok-yau, Olympic table tennis silver-medallist Li Ching, and his doubles partner, Ko Lai-chak, and champion cyclist Wong Kam-po, who was the last runner.


Yuen Wai-san, Senior Officer with the Correctional Services Department, who also joined the Torch Relay, said, “I was deeply impressed by the citizens, who were waving and cheering on both sides of the roads when I was on my way to the finishing point at Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai. It was in that moment, I couldn’t help thinking of the theme of the Torch Relay event, Light the Passion Share the Dream. And I believe that the feeling was shared by all the people in Hong Kong.”

Officiating at the end of the relay, the Chief Secretary for Administration, Henry Tang Ying-yen said it was “truly a journey of harmony”, which had made Hong Kong proud. “Every member of our community who defied the rain and took part played an indispensable role in creating this ocean of red that has washed over Hong Kong today.”


The Leisure and Cultural Services Department was largely responsible for collaborating efforts with various government departments and organisations in ensuring such a great turnout. Various ceremonies/community involvement programmes were held to promote the event and to cultivate a strong Olympic atmosphere in the community.


The Olympic torch arrived in Beijing on March 31, a prelude to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay. It was not the first time Hong Kong had hosted a leg of the relay, the first being 44 years ago.


The May 2 Olympic Torch Relay will no doubt be remembered for years to come as a joyous, yet dignified, celebration of the Olympic spirit and Hong Kong’s pride that our country is at long last hosting the Olympic Games.

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