Protests At Olympic Torch Ceremony
Updated:12:09, Monday March 24, 2008
Pro-Tibet demonstrators have disrupted the Olympic torch-lighting ceremony for the 2008 Games.
A protestor is led away at the ceremony
Two protesters ran onto the field at Ancient Olympia while Liu Qi, president of the Games' organising committee, was giving a speech. Both were detained.
Lhadon Tethong, director of Students for a Free Tibet, said both men were taken to the local police station.
"One of our colleagues saw them being dragged by about 20 police through town," he said.
When the incident took place, China state TV cut away to a pre-recorded scene, preventing Chinese viewers from seeing what was taking place.
Commentators on Chinese TV never mentioned the incident.
Despite causing a distraction, protesters failed to derail proceedings entirely.
International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge was among the crowd who watched an actress dressed as a high priestess used a convex mirror to light the flame.
"I think it's always sad when there are protests, but they were not violent and that's the most important thing," he said afterwards.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent a message to his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, calling on Beijing to show "restraint and (bring) an end to violence by dialogue in Tibet".
The demonstrations follow riots against Chinese rule in Tibet and neighbouring provinces.
They claimed the lives of 18 civilians and a police officer in Tibet's regional capital, Lhasa, and four other civilians in nearby Sichuan province, according to the government.
Exiled Tibetans say as many as 130 died.
China is now planning to impose strict security measures as the torch is carried through Tibet to Mount Everest in order to crack down on any protests that could upset the symbolic show of national unity.
Sky News' China correspondent Peter Sharp said Chinese Olympic organisers must be worried about having their thunder stolen by the protests following the disruption of the ceremony.
"The headlines tomorrow will once again will be about Tibet and China's human rights record," he said.
"I think they're going to have to get used to it, because over the route taken by the torch we could be seeing protests every day.
"The Chinese government must be bracing itself for an unending focus of very, very damaging publicity in the run-up to the Games."
China has blamed the unrest on Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, alleging he has conspired to wreck the country's Olympics.
The Dalai Lama has rejected the claim, saying he does not oppose the Beijing Games.
The torch relay will travel across Greece, ending at the Panathinaiko Stadium, the site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
After the handover ceremony in the stadium, the Olympic Flame will arrive in Beijing on March 31 before heading on a round-the-world tour for four months.