<b.Beijing: A handsome but anonymous guardian of the Olympics torch on its troubled world tour has won legions of Chinese female fans - and plenty of marriage proposals.
Known only as "Second Brother on the Right" because of his customary position by the flame, the young man with boyish looks and cropped hair is an Internet sensation and nationalist hero.
Pictures of him in regulation blue-and-white Olympics uniform abound on websites and Chinese media, with some fans likening him to Lei Feng, an idolised soldier of the Mao Zedong era.
"We love him not only because he is so handsome but because he represents the pride of China," one female blogger wrote. The nameless hero's popularity soared as he was seen defending the torch from pro-free Tibet protests on its international tour before reaching China for the Games.
"Take your hands away from my dearest brother, you cop!" wrote another female fan, "Rabbit", next to a photo of a British policeman pushing the guard as he wrestled with a protester in a London street during the British leg of the tour.
Those demonstrations brought a counter-wave of patriotism among many young Chinese, who suspected a Western conspiracy to blacken China's name at one of its greatest moments.
Tiring of China's new wave of pop and TV stars, fans have idealised "Second Brother" as representing ancient values. "They praised him for his 360-degree handsome look, well-built body in perfect proportion, refined and exemplary postures, smile and courtesy to torch bearers, his pals and audience, and determination to safeguard the Olympic spirit," reads his entry in the Wikipedia web database.
"In torch relay pictures, he stayed calm and confident during violent situations, and gracious, graceful and proud in most others ... Those (other) stars or idols lacking an unpolluted and vigorous temperament are not attractive any longer." "Second Brother" is not the only hero among the torch guards, who, by contrast with their status at home, were sometimes vilified in the West for being unquestioning representatives of stern Chinese authority.
Other guards have been given nicknames such as "Leading Handsome", "Ravishing Hand", "Kindness" and even "Noodle Soup".
On return to China, where the torch relays were peaceful in the run-up to the start of the Games on Friday, authorities have kept the guards' identities a state secret. But that has not dampened female enthusiasm. "My dear Second Brother on the Right, please marry me!" begged one girl on a site with 542 pages of odes and photos to the nameless hero.