2008 Beijing Games Torch Ceremony Clouded by Continuous Protests

By: Claudia Beckford

This past Sunday at the archaeological site Olympia - near the Temple of Hera the 29th Olympic Games Torch was lit. This was the beginning of the five-month journey towards the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games which will begin on August 8th.

The first torch bearer will be the Athens 2004 taekwondo medallist - Greek athlete Alexander Nikolaidis who will have the task to take the torch throughout Greece over a period of six days. Luo Xuejuan, China's Olympic swimming gold medallist was the second bearer, taking the flame from Nikolaidis. The Greek athlete will then hand it over to the Chinese Olympic officials at the Kalimarmaro Stadium.

Despite the high security measures; the event was clouded by the interference of two pro-Tibet demonstrators who were carrying black flags. Also, other three members of the Paris-based press freedom group were displaying a banner with the symbol of the Olympics transformed into handcuffs a clear attempt of disrespect for the national symbols. All activists were detained by the police but later on released on bail.

Afterwards they were interviewed and stated the charges were "absurd and senseless". Reporters Without Borders said: "We were in no way attacking the Olympic spirit or Greece,". "We were simply protesting against the policy being carried out in China during this period of intensifying repression."

Despite the unusual oppositions Chinese climbers will carry the Olympic torch to the 8,444 metre summit of the highest mountain in the planet - The Everest. This is certainly a challenge not only for the climbers but the unsettle situation which is being lived at the Tibet does not make it any easier. In the past days the capital city of Tibet - Lhasa has been hit by continuous riots as the people who live in this land claim independence from China.

The torch's 137,000 kilometres journey involves more than 27,870 torchbearers who together will covered five continents and 134 cities. It is expected that along the way there will be more protests pro-Tibetans around the world. Some of the places which are awaiting the torch and at which there will be additional ceremonies are: Almaty, Istanbul, St. Petersburg, London, Paris, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, Dar es Salaam, Muscat, Islamabad, New Delhi, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Canberra, Nagano, Seoul, Pyongyang , Ho Chi Minh City , Hong Kong, Macao, Tianjin and once again Beijing.

Jacques Rogge - President of the International Olympic Committee stated at the ceremony "Today will lead to the opening of the first ever Olympic Games in China, where one-fifth of the world's population is longing for them." "The messengers will be citizens, young or old, able or disabled, athletes and members of the Olympic Movement, who are all eager to promote what each one of us can contribute to a better world," he said.

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