Giant on the move
At last, 11 of us did get onto a plane to Lhasa last Friday. It was soon clear that while the Tibetan authorities were prepared to let us in, this was by no means going to be a free-ranging reporting assignment.
The hotel ‘near Lhasa airport’ that we had been promised turned out to be 300 kilometres away in Shigatse (3,900m).
The compensation was the drive up a stunning river valley. Tibetan prayer flags fluttered in a stiff breeze above the squat houses and children skinny-dipped in the aquamarine water beneath azure skies.
On one of the toilet stops, a friend of mine in the Chinese media party told me he had been acclimatizing in Lhasa for four days. It turned out that all the Chinese media had had at least one day more to get accustomed to the high altitude.
We’re here, where’s the torch?
We arrived. For a long time it looked like we wouldn’t, but on Monday morning, four days after leaving Beijing, 11 foreign journalists arrived at the media centre on the lower slopes of Mount Everest to report on the torch relay.
It brought to an end two of weeks of uncertainty that started when a briefing was cancelled and we heard nothing more until we were summoned to the Beijing Olympic media centre on the morning of our scheduled departure. The party of foreign media, at this stage 20-strong, was informed that bad weather had caused a delay to our journey and the departure ceremony for the climb team and torch had been cancelled.
The moment China has been waiting for … well one of many Olympic moments. The torch relay kicked into gear on Monday, but not without a bit of drama. (The above picture is of China’s gold medallist swimmer Luo Xuejuan.)
The Chinese media lauded the event, and several pages of newspapers were devoted to lavish descriptions of the event.