BEIJING – An Olympic flame reached the top of the world Thursday.
Live television footage showed a Chinese mountaineering team holding up a specially designed torch — separate from the main Olympic flame — along with Chinese and Olympic flags on the peak of Mount Everest.
"One World, One Dream," one of the climbers said on the approach to the peak, repeating the slogan for the Olympics. "We have lit the torch on top of the world," another climber said.
The 19-member team broke camp before dawn and reached the top of the 29,035-foot mountain a little more than six hours later.
The climbers then all crowded together at the top of Everest and passed the torch among themselves.
Organizers of the Beijing Olympics hope the climb up Everest will underscore China's ambitions for this August's games.
Criticized from the outset because of China's often harsh rule over Tibet — where Everest is located — the event drew more intense scrutiny after Tibetans across western China erupted in anti-government protests in March.
Nonetheless organizers hope the dramatic image of the torch atop Everest will counter some of the damaging publicity from the uprising and protests during the international leg of the torch relay.
The Everest flame is separate from the main Olympic torch, which on Thursday was on the opposite side of China, in the southeastern province of Guangdong, the heart of Chinese manufacturing. The main flame will cross every region and province of China, returning to Beijing on Aug. 6, two days ahead of the opening ceremony for the games.
The Everest leg has largely unfolded amid secrecy, in part to deter protesters who have criticized the event as symbolizing China's domination over Tibet.
The 19-member final assault team was comprised of both ethnic Han Chinese and Tibetan members and also included university students. The team captain is a Tibetan, identified as Nyima Cering, while the deputy is Chinese, Luo Shen, CCTV and the Xinhua News Agency said.