China celebrated the arrival of the Olympic flame on domestic soil as it arrived in Hong Kong on Wednesday. At least, one torch arrived. The other is believed to be somewhere on Mount Everest, ready for its impressive if contentious ascent of the world’s highest mountain.
Western reporters assigned to follow the Everest flame complained that no one would tell them where it was and one Chinese newspaper described the lack of information as a “mysterious veil that has surrounded base camp.”
The Olympic flame split in Beijing last month, with the main torch heading to Europe, the US and Asia on its protest-marked world tour.
Meanwhile, the second was taken to Tibet where a mountaineering team had gathered for the ambitious feat. The flame will be carried in a lantern, allowing a carefully designed torch using special fuel to be lit in the thin air of the summit.
Some had speculated that the team hoped to make the ascent yesterday — exactly 100 days before the Olympics and amid celebrations in Beijing.
Yan Xingguo, the team’s meteorologist, said: “It’s certainly not possible in the next three days because there is wind above 30 meters a second ... according to our experience, we can scale the summit when the wind is 20 meters a second.”
State-run broadcaster CCTV reported mountaineers had completed the setup of a staging point at 8,300m for the final assault on the 8,850m summit.
Reporters said there was no word on the location of the torch.
One worker at base camp told Reuters that the climbers and flame left on Tuesday. Officials dismissed a similar report on a Chinese Web site as “irresponsible and misleading.”
“Having invited us here to cover the ascent of the flame, the Chinese appear to have taken fright,” the BBC’s Jonah Fisher complained in a blog.
“It now seems that they only want us to report the victorious summit moment ... the only fact we possess is that the flame is somewhere in the area,” he wrote.
There are reports of a near-blackout of communications on the Nepalese side of Everest, where a US mountaineer was caught with a “Free Tibet” banner. William Brant Holland was deported.
Tibetan support groups claim that taking the flame up Everest — and bringing it through Tibet in the relay — is provocative.
The main torch will begin the domestic leg of its journey in Hong Kong today.