The 2008 Olympics: Everest north side climbing permits to be restricted

The number of climbing expeditions on Everest's north side will be limited next spring in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Flame ceremony in Beijing, China Tibet Mountaineering Association said, according to International Campaign for Tibet (ICT)

Moreover, those allowed on the mountain will have to face an increase in climbing fees. Number of climbers and the final amount of permits for 2007 are not yet confirmed.

Trial run of the torch ceremony

Beijing is planning to take the Olympic Flame to Mount Everest as a stage on the Olympic Torch Relay to Beijing, an event of major symbolic importance starting by March, 2008. CTMA stated there will be a trial run of the torch ceremony on the mountain next spring.

Currently, the Everest North side climbing fees are $3,000 compared to $10,000 in Nepal and in recent years, this side has been the most popular to climb on Everest. The Chinese have done little to regulate the climbs. The situation has led to poor monitoring of expedition outfitters and accidents on the peak. Only past summer, several deaths were unknown to CTMA officials and a dying climber was passed by a large number of commercial clients close to high camp.

Olympic flame: Symbol of world cooperation and athletic excellence

Cleaning up the Tibet side of Everest for the Olympic event might sound like a good idea, the question is however what China's real motivation is. The Olympic flame is an important symbol of ideals of world cooperation and athletic excellence. Everest in turn is close to Cho Oyu, where Tibetan refugees were shot by Chinese army guards four weeks back, witnessed by a large international community of mountaineers.

From the propaganda of the Nazis in Berlin, politics has influenced the Olympic games in many ways. The sudden restrictions in Everest climbing without any reports of improved services on the peak might thus have other reasons:

"This is possibly because of fears that the torch attempt may go wrong, or because the climbers may witness some form of protest, or actions by the authorities," the International Campaign for Tibet reports.

Olympic Silence Awards?

In the ancient Olympic games; women, foreigners, slaves, and dishonored persons were forbidden to compete. If confirmed, the climbing permit selection on the Tibet side of Everest could prove interesting. Climbers who filmed and reported the killings at Nangpa La, some of them even helping the Tibetan refugees, now might have to look for mountains outside Tibet to climb. ExplorersWeb, the first media in the world to break the news on October 2, might face information restrictions.

On the other hand, it wouldn't be surprising if those expeditions who remained silent and even tried to conceal the information about the Cho Oyu shootings were "awarded" with one of the limited Everest climbing permits.

German sports official and sports scientist Carl Diem conceived the idea of an Olympic torch relay for the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. In 2008, the torch will be carried by China to the Everest summit in Tibet.

Chinese authorities plan to take the Beijing 2008 Olympics’ torch across all continents of the world up to the top of Mount Everest in a global relay from March to June, 2008. The torch relay is expected to visit 28 cities around the world and 70 cities in China, using 15,000 runners.

As for Everest, Chinese official confirmed some time ago the torch would be carried to the summit of Everest in a relay race some time during May 2008. The team of about 80 climbers (from 18 to 23 years old) would ascend the peak via the south side and descend via the north side. Team members' selecton would have started in 2004, and the chosen climbers would train since then, including a rehearsal run in 2007.

Chinese troops invaded Tibet in 1950. The Dalai Lama fled the country in 1959 and now lives in exile in Dharamsala, northern India. Pro free-Tibet organizations have held protests agains Beijing hosting the upcoming Olympic games. Tibetans in exile have even organized their own Tibetan Olympics (check website in the links section) to be held in Dharamsala at the same time the official games are celebrated in Beijing.

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