Guangzhou Asian Games torch relay to stay inside China

BEIJING Thu Mar 5, 2009 11:53am IST

BEIJING (Reuters) - The torch relay for next year's Asian Games in Guangzhou will not leave China, organisers confirmed on Thursday.

Last year's relay for the Beijing Olympics faced demonstrations and disruption on its journey around the world, but Guangzhou organisers said the decision to forego overseas legs was based on financial grounds.

"To relay the Asian Games torch only within the Chinese territory is not for safety concerns," He Jiqing, director of ceremonies, told the official website of the Games (www.gz2010.cn).

"It is an innovative idea, and also frugal, effective and pragmatic," he added.

The torch relay for the last Asian Games in Doha in 2006 was the longest in the history of the continental sporting showpiece, taking in all the former host countries on a 50,000-km trip around Asia.

The ambitious overseas tour that preceded last year's Olympics was meant to showcase China's unity and pride but turned into a lightning rod for protests, mostly over the country's crackdown on unrest in Tibet.

The relay for next year's 16th version of the Asian Games is more likely to follow the blueprint of that for the 1990 Beijing Asian Games, when the torch visited all of China's provinces.

"It is a scheme concluded after comprehensive consideration," He said.

"The project has been decided. We need not to think about (safety) problems any more," he added.

The torch will be lit in late Aug. 2010 and arrive in Guangzhou on Nov. 10, a couple of days before the Games starts, according to the draft plan.

The southern city, formerly known as Canton, is expected to play host to 12,000 participants from 45 countries from Nov. 12-27 next year.

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