Melbourne, Aug.5 : A Nepalese blog -- Blogdai -- has claimed that the Chinese faked the climb to Mount Everest with the Olympic torch back in May.
The Australian website news.com.au quotes the blog as saying that incidents preceding the climb are pointer to this. Recalling them, the blog said that it was late in April when the world began to suspect that the much-publicised Olympic torch ascent of Everest might not be such a grand gesture for humanity after all.
It had been known for some time that the Chinese were to restrict access to Everest, but, on April 21, 2008, Nepalnews.com reported that "due to possible threat that pro-Tibetan protestors could thwart the Olympic torch rally to Everest, the Nepal government has deployed additional security personnel on the base camp of Mt Everest...The soldiers have been given orders to shoot if necessary."
Bad weather began to threaten the Chinese deadline of May 10, it started to look like authorities wanted as few eyewitnesses as possible - news filtered through that nobody was to be allowed on the mountain between May 1 and May 10, Tibetan placard or not.
The BBC was expelled from the Nepalese side of the mountain on April 28th and, the following day, on the Tibetan side, Olympic torch diarist Jonah Fisher reported wearily upon the "restrictions on satellite phones and video cameras" and threats that any mountaineers caught chatting to foreign media would be expelled.
Nevertheless, official Chinese media reported the odds to have been conquered on May 8 by a phalanx of some 30 climbers, assistants and one official cameraman. In what one might assume to be a most unfortunate oversight on behalf of the Chinese authorities, this mighty host atop the roof of the world did not contain a single western journalist or outside observer at all.
Two days later, on the final day of the imposed ban, the torch was gone and the mountain open to foreigners again, torch relay base camp chief Li Zhixin announcing breathlessly: "We kept our promise."
According to Blogdai, rumours that something wasn't right about the Chinese climb first came from "friends who were among the first to summit Everest after the climbing ban was lifted", who claimed they saw "no new flags, mementos or any evidence that the Olympic torch ever reached the summit".
But the most compelling evidence of all would seem to come from the official footage of the alleged summit, as released to the western media. Not only is there "no apparent evidence of the old, faded prayer flags that mark the summit and have been known to stay in place for a few seasons or more", but there appear to be some visible anomalies when one compares the footage to visual documents from previous summits.
Blogdai points to the complete lack of visual reference points - peaks in the background, or immediate surrounds that might give any sense of summit dimension - photographic proof of which has been standard verification for Everest summits since Hillary and Norgay.
There is also the matter of exhalation vapour apparent in the Chinese footage, which some climbers claim doesn't readily appear above much lower altitudes. The voices chattering in the background are implausible, and there are lights glowing down the mountain that would not have been visible from the summit, particularly given the climbing ban.
The answer to that question could be found, perhaps, in the equally baffling Chinese fixation with media control and their apparent nonchalance towards international criticism it yields. To the Chinese, its seems, being caught cheating is nowhere near as embarrassing as failure.