Olympic Torch’s Everest Climb Covered in Shroud of Secrecy

The ambitious run of a second Olympic torch to the top of may be underway, though no-one really knows. From AP:

State-run China Central Television began the first of what are billed as elaborate and technically difficult live broadcasts from Everest’s base camp for the torch’s journey up the world’s tallest peak. Mountaineers were completing the setup of a staging point at 8,300 meters (27,390 feet) for the final assault on the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) summit, CCTV reported.

Yet there was no word on the location of the torch, which mountaineers on the 31-member climbing team would go to the summit, their whereabouts and when they would scale the peak, though that could come as early as Thursday.

The Web site of Beijing Daily likened the lack of information to a “mysterious veil that has surrounded base camp.”

In an effort to preempt any protests, the Chinese government has closed down all routes up to the peak of Everest. Reuters reports:

“We have the confidence, sense of responsibility, capability and power to thwart any disruption and sabotage by hostile elements within and outside the country,” Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region government, told the delegation, according to a report in the Tibet Daily last week.

Since a day of Buddhist monk-led rioting in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, on March 14 and ensuing protests by ethnic Tibetans in western China, foreigners have been banned from Tibet, and it was only last week that Chinese tourists were allowed back into the region.

The new 150 million yuan ($21.4 million) road to base camp on the Tibetan side of Everest runs along a route popular with trekkers, but it was deserted on Monday apart from the convoy taking foreign and Chinese media to cover the torch’s ascent.

Foreign journalists, who have been banned from reporting on the Everest relay except from a far distance, are becoming increasingly frustrated. MountEverest.net, a site written by and for climbers, reports:

International journalists invited by the Chinese Government to Everest’s Tibetan BC are ungrateful campers. Tired and sick from too rapid altitude gain; they’ve come to find a new 90km black-top road and a media center in Rongbuk – but no news to report, or any word on the torch’s whereabouts.

“Having invited us here to cover the ascent of the flame, the Chinese appear to have taken fright,” reported Jonah Fisher for BBC. “It now seems that they only want us to report the victorious summit moment. We may never know if there were failed attempts, or indeed if someone hurt themselves trying for the top.”

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