The Olympic torch came to Yichang on 1st June. The relay was scheduled to start at 8 am from the 'Peace Park' by the Yangtze River.
Some friends and I got up at 4 am that Sunday to go and see the torch. We had been told that the roads would be blocked by 6:45 and so we wanted to make sure that we could get a good spot to watch the relay from, as early as possible. Many Chinese students from the University spent the previous night in the downtown area so they could book their spots. Fortunately, we got a taxi and so we didn't have to walk the whole distance as planned.
When we got there, we jumped right into the festive mood and bought some Olympic T-shirts, head bands and flags. We found a good place which was right across the Peace park and began our wait... and that's when the pushing started.
Already there was a sizeable crowd when we got there some time past 5... but the people just came piling on and on. Soon there was pushing, shoving and cursing among all the chanting and flag waving that was going on. As foreigners of course, we had special consideration - "These foreigners have come to see the torch in China, they should not be disturbed!"; "This is the place for the Chinese not foreigners!" Yes, special consideration from both sides.
We also got interviewed by two TV crews and many members of the press were snappy happy with their cameras. May I add that we played the celebrity part well :) In fact, a couple of days later, our faces turned up in one of the local papers.
The torch itself was just a passing moment. We saw someone [a Chinese tennis star possibly] run a bit and then hand over the flame to another guy... and the crowd around started moving in all directions.
As soon as the torch had passed we marched on to the stage where the relay had started to take pictures. It was really funny because each time we posed for pictures, lots of Chinese people wanted to take their pictures with us. It was fun and crazy and our cheeks started hurting because of all the smiling we had to do for the cameras.
Once we were done with being celebrities, we trekked back, across the Central Hospital and took the No.17 to the University.
It really was a good day and I'm keen to go see another torch relay!