Back in June, China announced that it planned to build a highway on the side of Mt. Everest to aid climbers as well as provide an easy path for the Olympic torch to reach the peak of the mountain at the 2008 Beijing Games. However, the $19.7 million project is being put on hold because of unspecified resistance by the Tibetan government. Instead, workers have taken to repairing the existing road made of dirt and stone that was built in 1978.

The new road was to be made of blacktop stretching 67 miles from the foot of the mountain to a base camp about 17,060 feet up and fenced in by undulating guardrails. They hoped to complete it before the Beijing Summer Olympics. Organizers for the Olympics are planning the longest torch relay in Olympic history for these upcoming games. The trip would take 130 days, 85,000 miles, travel across five continents, and reach the 29,035 foot summit of the mountain.

Climbers have generally supported the plans to build a road. It would make the base camp easier for tour groups to access. It would also allow climbers to save their energy for climbing. The environmental impact of the road is said to be minimal with tire dust, oil, and the pavement itself. The only real danger is that further development could result from it such as the need for a parking lot at the end of the road or restaurants and rest stops.

Currently, Tibet and Nepal are the common routes up the mountain. Tibet may be upset that the torch relay may give an untrue depiction of China’s ruling Tibet. Although China has ruled Tibet for centuries, Tibet claims that they have been an independent state for most of that time. Chinese communist troops occupied the land in 1951, and Beijing technically does rule the region. This sudden resistance for something as harmless as the Olympic games may show that Tibet is trying to take back their independence.

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