Olympic flame for Beijing Games lit amidst protest

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Olympic countdown-clock at the National Museum of China.
The Olympic flag.

On Monday, the Olympic torch for the 2008 Summer Olympics was lit in Olympia, Greece as per tradition. The Games of the XXIX Olympiad are scheduled to be held in and around Beijing, China from August 8, 2008, to August 24, 2008.

Members of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and others, were able to break through the police cordon. "We cannot let the Chinese government seize the Olympic flame, a symbol of peace, without denouncing the dramatic human rights situation in the country," RSF said in a statement.

While Liu Qi, president of the Beijing Organizing Committee and a former mayor of Beijing, delivered a speech, at least one protester was able to run up behind him and display a flag that resembled the Olympic flag, except it was black and the rings were handcuffs.

The protester was quickly apprehended and Liu Qi continued his speech relatively uninterrupted. "The Olympic flame will radiate light and happiness, peace and friendship, and hope and dreams to the people of China and the whole world," he told the crowd.

Cquote1.svg All we wanted to do was break into the torch relay and shout that this is a torch of shame as the Chinese government continues to kill hundreds of our people. Cquote2.svg

—Tenzin Dorjee

"Shame on China. Don't send China's blood-tainted torch to Tibet. Free Tibet. Tibet is an independent country," shouted Tenzin Dorjee, a leader for Students for a Free Tibet, while he was taken by police.

"All we wanted to do was break into the torch relay and shout that this is a torch of shame as the Chinese government continues to kill hundreds of our people," Dorjee said later. "They were stalking me from the moment I touched down to Greece," he added.

Cquote1.svg The torch is the link between all athletes and citizens of this world; between all of us who believe in Olympism and the virtue of sport. It has the force to unite humanity and to stand for harmony. Cquote2.svg

—Jacques Rogge

The torch is still scheduled to be carried around the world in a relay that will go through twenty countries before arriving in Beijing for the start of the Games.

Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has defended having the Games in China, saying, "The major political leaders don't want a boycott."

In his speech Monday, he said, "The torch is the link between all athletes and citizens of this world; between all of us who believe in Olympism and the virtue of sport. It has the force to unite humanity and to stand for harmony."

Germany's Olympic Committee rejected a boycott of the games aimed at events in Tibet. Noting that the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott did not avert the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the president of the committee said they concluded that the role of sports is to start dialog and promote understanding — and not to exert political pressure.


Sources

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