KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian leg of the Beijing Olympic torch relay saw a carnival-like atmosphere despite heavy security here Monday.
Even a heavy shower in the late afternoon did not disrupt the smooth flow of the 16.5km-long relay procession, which ended as scheduled at the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC).
The organisers wanted to showcase the old and new side of Kuala Lumpur to the world during the hosting of the historic event, which was held for only the second time on Malaysian soil.
Kuala Lumpur last hosted a leg of the torch relay when Tokyo hosted the Olympics in 1964.
Malaysians from all walks of life came out to greet the runners with applause and cheers. There were also groups of pro-Chinese supporters along the route, wearing T-shirts with slogans like “Keep Politics and Violence out of Olympics” and “China Boleh”.
A short but colourful ceremony attended by Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Kuala Lumpur Mayor Datuk Abdul Hakim Borhan and vice-president of Beijing Olympic Games Organising Committee Jiang Xiaoyu kicked off the relay at Dataran Merdeka at 2pm.
Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) president Tuanku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Jaafar was given the honour to be the first torchbearer after the flame was lighted.
The relay route included landmarks like Parliament House, National Museum, Railway Station, National Mosque, KL Tower and KLCC.
Eighty torchbearers comprising local personalities, and former and current top Malaysian athletes took part in the relay.
They included former national badminton players Datuk Punch Gunalan, the Sidek brothers – Razif, Jalani and Rashid, world number one squash player Nicol David and former top swimmer Nurul Huda Abdullah.
The torch procession also proceeded to the KL Tower, where it was passed to Angkasawan Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor at the top.
The relay ended with the Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah, who was last runner, lighting the cauldron at the Esplanade area in KLCC.
The Olympic flame was later taken to Jakarta, for the next leg of the relay which will be held today.