Chinese authorities say a flame will burn on Everest’s summit to celebrate the country’s hosting of the Olympic games this summer.
Scientists have conducted tests on the torch which will be carried to the highest point on earth, and say they are confident it will stay alight, despite the paucity of oxygen on the 8,848m (29,029ft) peak. Winds can top 100mph on Everest and temperatures drop as low as –30C.
The torch bearers are due to summit some time in May, the exact date being dependent on weather conditions. The games begin on 8 August.
Everest straddles the border between Nepal and Tibet, which China occupied in 1950 and for which campaigners continue to press for autonomy.
The Beijing government has upgraded roads on the northern side of Everest and there are fears the authorities plan to increase the numbers of tourists brought to the area, with consequent effects on the fragile environment.
Beijing News reported Ma Lin, head of the government’s science committee, as saying: “We are fully confident that the Olympic games torch can certainly be alight on Everest peak, and everyone will be able to see a bright flame.”
He said scientists had overcome the problems of keeping the torch burning in the extreme conditions.