Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The presence of foreign media on Everest to follow the journey of the Olympic torch will be reduced, officially because of "uncertain weather conditions", but many think that it is out of fear of demonstrations in favour of Tibet.
Yesterday, the spokesman of the Bocog (Beijing Olympic organising committee) announced that journalists who were planning to leave on April 22 to follow the event on the highest mountain in the world will need to delay their departure for at least four more days.
The greeting ceremony for the journey of the torch to the roof of the world, which was supposed to take place at a base camp at 5,500 metres, has also been cancelled. The only event still planned is the journey of the torch itself. And finally, the journalists who are following the event will be able to stay in Tibet for only 13-14 days in all.
The changes in the plan, which was set up three months ago, are officially due to bad weather conditions on the mountain. But according to accredited reporters, the change in the program demonstrates China's reluctance to bring prying eyes into the Tibetan region, which has been isolated for more than a month, after the uprising of the monks in Lhasa and in the nearby regions.
"This has nothing to do with the situation in Tibet", says Wang Hui, a Bocog spokeswoman. "It's all because of the uncertain weather conditions. Mount Qomolangma [the Chinese name for Everest] is not a place where many people can go".
Before the uprisings in March, the ascent of the torch to Mount Everest was publicised as the climax of the sensationalism and appeal of these Olympics.
China has prepared a special torch for the ascent of Everest, one that is different from the torch used so far and is capable of handling the high mountain atmosphere, with its possible strong winds.
According to the reporters, the new plan does not permit them the necessary time to acclimate themselves to the temperatures and altitude. Bocog officials have not responded to these concerns.