May 22, 2008 / 2:53 AM / 11 years ago

Quake-hit leg of Olympic torch relay postponed

BEIJING (Reuters) - The Sichuan leg of the Beijing Olympic torch relay has been cut by a day and postponed to the week before the Games’ opening ceremony to allow for relief work in the quake-torn province, organizers said on Thursday.

The relay resumed on Thursday in the coastal city of Ningbo after three days of national mourning for the victims of the Sichuan earthquake which killed more than 40,000 people and left millions homeless.

The Sichuan leg, originally scheduled for June 15-18, had been pushed back to August 3-5, the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) said on its website.

“The relay leg will be closely tied to the earthquake disaster and relief work and will emphasize the theme of ‘Torch relay, love and care’,” BOCOG said.

The torch relay was scheduled to travel through quake-affected areas, including Mianyang and the Sichuan capital, Chengdu. Other cities included Yibin, Zigong, Guanghan and Guang’an, the home-town of late paramount leader and revered economic reformer, Deng Xiaoping.

Organizers did not say whether the route would be affected, but said it would be the penultimate stop before the torch’s arrival in Beijing. The opening ceremony starts on August 8.

The relay schedule in other provinces and cities would be adjusted to allow for the change, BOCOG said, without providing details.

The longest torch relay in history has been dogged by controversy, with anti-Chinese demonstrations blighting several international legs and weather delaying the ascent of Mount Everest.

After the 7.9 magnitude struck the southwestern province, organizers originally decided to proceed as planned after a minute’s silence at the beginning of each day.

But on Sunday, they announced it would be suspended for three days from Monday to Wednesday.

The torch will pass by a 447-year-old library in Zhejiang province’s Ningbo on Thursday morning before crossing the recently opened 36-km Hangzhou bay bridge, the world’s longest, to arrive at Jiaxing city in the afternoon, the China Daily said.

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Nick Macfie

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