Politically charged Mount Everest torch relay starting to take shape

BEIJING -- Chinese mountaineers will carry the Olympic torch to the top of Mount Everest, making the final assault on the
world's tallest peak from a staging camp some 500 yards from the
summit, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday.

The head of China's mountaineering team, Wang Yongfeng, said
plans for the Everest leg of the torch relay for the 2008 Beijing
Olympics were being finalized, the Xinhua report said. From base
camp at 17,000 feet, the torch will be taken to a staging area at
27,400 feet and from there to the 29,035-foot summit, Xinhua quoted
Wang as saying.

Taking the torch up Everest is one of the most technically
challenging and politically charged events Beijing has planned for
the Aug. 8-24 Olympics. Aside from the physical challenge of
climbing the mountain, which straddles the border of Nepal and
Chinese-controlled Tibet, the torch had to be designed to burn in
bad weather, low pressure and high altitude.

While Beijing hopes the feat will impress the world, groups
critical of China's often harsh 57-year rule over Tibet have
decried the torch route as a stunt meant to lend legitimacy to
Chinese control.

In April, five American activists were expelled from China after
unfurling a banner at Everest base camp that read, "One World, One
Dream, Free Tibet 2008," in a dig at the Beijing Games' official
slogan "One World, One Dream."