The go-go girls who once swayed on flatbeds trucks along the route were gone, and Friday’s departure ceremony in nearby Jixi included a minute of silence to honor the estimated 80,000 people killed in the tremor. But Xunlu’s 2,000 residents, joined by visitors from surrounding fields, nevertheless found something to exult about when the flame, dimly visible behind the windows of a minivan, raced by in a long convoy of police cars, buses and television platforms.
“We have to go on,” said Fang Xiaobing, 31, a local truck driver who took time out to enjoy the moment. “The Olympics are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It won’t come around again.”
The attitude of Fang and his neighbors in these steep, terraced hillsides, in Anhui province 200 miles southwest of Shanghai, suggested broad popular support for Communist Party leaders in their decision to go ahead with the Olympic torch relay despite some complaints that the festivities are inappropriate in the face of so much grief in the earthquake zone.
Read also “Lin Qiang: Seeking Truth Is More Important Than Saving Face” from CDT, about a Sichuan Education Department official who withdraw as an official torch bearer out of guilt over the children killed in the quake.