Beijing 2008 Olympic Games
Chinese President Hu Jintao (L) receives the torch from Liu Qi, president of the Beijing Organizing Committee of the 2008 Olympic Games, at the welcome ceremony for the Olympic flame and launching of the Beijing Olympic torch relay at Tian'anmen Square in Beijing, capital of China, on March 31, 2008.
THE Olympic torch headed for Kazakhstan today on the first leg of an epic world tour designed to drum up enthusiasm for the Beijing Games, but also certain to draw anti-China protests.
A chartered Air China plane took off at about 10am (1pm AEDT) carrying the torch from Beijing to the Kazakh city of Almaty, where the first leg of the relay would be run tomorrow, the Beijing Olympic organising committee said.
Sending the torch on its way with pomp and fanfare, China staged an elaborate ceremony in central Tiananmen Square yesterday attended by top leaders, including President Hu Jintao and his number two Xi Jinping.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Jacques Rogge, in a speech at the gathering that was closed to the general public, said the torch would spread Olympic "magic" around the world.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said he does not plan to boycott August's Olympic opening ceremonies in Beijing or the torch relay in London this weekend.