Monday, March 31, 2008

BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | Olympic torch re-lit in Beijing

The Olympic torch has been re-lit at a lavish ceremony in Beijing, after arriving aboard a flight from Athens.

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Chinese President Hu Jintao took part in the event at Tiananmen Square to welcome the torch to the city, which hosts of the 2008 Olympics in August.

Tight security was put in place at the square, amid concerns of possible anti-government protests.

Last week protesters opposed to China's actions in Tibet clashed with police at the lighting ceremony in Greece.

On Tuesday, the torch goes to Almaty in Kazakhstan, its next stop on a tour of 20 countries before returning for the opening of the Beijing games on 8 August.

See map of Olympic torch relay route

Square closed

Hundreds of schoolchildren turned out at Beijing airport, waving flags as the Air China plane arrived.

Students and workers sang the Olympic slogan "One World, One Dream" and waved pom-poms.

Security was tight in the centre of Beijing, with one underground station near Tiananmen Square closed, and the square closed off to vehicles.

'Timeless symbol'

Sunday's formal handover was held in the Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens, where the first modern Olympics took place in 1896.

The Chinese and Greek flags were marched in by Greek athletes to the strains of a band, before a circle of white-clad actresses dressed as ancient priestesses surrounded a podium as the torch was brought in.

Minos Kyriakou, president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, passed the flame to chief Beijing organizer Liu Qi.

"The Olympic flame is the timeless symbol which stirs admiration, pride and faith [in] the Olympic ideals and values," said Mr Kyriakou.

"I hope the world community welcomes the flame and honours it".

Mr Liu pointed out that the summit of Mount Everest was on the torch's destination list, "testifying to the great strength of the Olympic movement in marking the progress of human civilisation".

The protesters tried to unfurl a banner which said "Stop genocide in Tibet", but failed to enter the stadium or disrupt the solemn ceremony.

At least six people were arrested.

Police had warned they would confiscate all banners, signs or objects that might be thrown.

OLYMPIC TORCH ROUTE

Olympic torch relay route

BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | Olympic torch re-lit in Beijing

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