From: Reuters
Published February 26, 2008 10:55 PM

Beijing says torch can stay alight atop Everest

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese scientists have expressed full confidence that the Olympic relay torch can scale Mount Everest without sputtering out, a newspaper said on Wednesday.

The torch relay, ahead of the Games which start in Beijing on August 8, will include a climb to the top of the world's highest mountain, which spans Nepal and the Chinese region of Tibet.

China has upgraded path and road surfaces to make it easier on the bearers of the Olympic flame.

Beijing scientists said they had finished tests to ensure the torch can stay alight in the tough, oxygen-sparse conditions that leave even experienced climbers struggling.

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"We are fully confident that the Olympic Games torch can certainly be alight on Everest peak, and everyone will be able to see a bright flame," Ma Lin, the head of the Beijing government's science committee said, according to Wednesday's Beijing News.

Ferocious winds and temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 Fahrenheit) at the summit presented special difficulties in designing the torch, Ma said. But they had been overcome.

The torch relay is scheduled to climb Everest in May, with the precise date to be decided by the weather.

The relay's inclusion of Tibet, ruled with an iron hand by China since People's Liberation Army troops marched in in 1950, has angered advocates of autonomy for the region.

(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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