Reporters on the Job

Where's My Torch? The 2008 Olympics, which will be held in Beijing, Wednesday gave the city a major "first": the Olympic torch, a symbol of goodwill, was run through its streets. The one-lb., silver-toned torch started at Tiananmen Square and ended at the Summer Palace.

The milestone brought huge crowds to the square, reports the Monitor's Robert Marquand, who went down to check out the excitement. "College students skipped class, and businessmen were mysteriously not at work. Lots of ordinary people came out, and it was of course covered on TV. It was a very festive occasion. People love to have something like this to talk about."

According to Olympic officials, it was the first time an Olympic flame has been carried through mainland China. When Tokyo hosted the 1964 games, the torch went through Hong Kong and Taiwan, but not the mainland, which was experiencing political convulsions in the wake of a crackdown on intellectuals.

The final leg of the Beijing torch run featured NBA Houston Rockets star and Shanghai native, Yao Ming. All told, 148 runners shepherded the flame from its start at China's Great Wall to the Summer Palace.

Running around the square in search of a good view gave Bob newfound sympathy for the runners. "It was a very hot day - people were armed with water bottles," Bob says. "Our view was so bad at first that we ran around the Great Hall of the People to see the point where the runners were starting, but the police waved us away. We kept moving for a good vantage point and ended up circumnavigating the square. We should have carried a torch ourselves."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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