Tibetan protests mars Olympic torch lighting ceremony

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New Delhi, Mar 24: China vowed to carry the Olympic torch to the world's highest peak, Mount Everest as planned, despite mounting protests by Tibetans marred the traditional Olympic torch lighting ceremony in Greece on Monday. Tibet activist groups have called for stopping the Olympic torch relay from passing through the restive Himalayan region swamped by the Chinese military to crush the most volatile protests against its rule since 1989.

The ruling Communist leadership has promised the international community that it would ensure a smooth run-up to the 2008 Summer Olympics. Beijing is keen that successful games will bolster its international image. Despite strict security arrangements, two demonstrators ran onto the field at Ancient Olympia in Greece during the flame-lighting ceremony, which was showed on Chinese state television with some delay.

Cameras abruptly cut away when a man carrying a black flag with handcuffs used to symbolise the five Olympics rings ran behind Liu Qi, the president of Beijing's Olympics Organising Committee and Beijing Communist Party Secretary, was giving a speech. Police detained the two men, media reports said. Officers also detained one Tibetan campaigner and a Greek photographer with him just outside the venue.

Apprehending trouble, around 1,000 police officers were deployed in ancient Olympia, where the games originated 3,000 years ago, for the traditional torch lighting ceremony. The torch is to arrive March 31 in Beijing. The flame is to be carried through 20 countries, including India to the 8,848-meter high Mt Everest in Tibet in May for the Games that will begin on August 8.

ANI

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