40 Tibetans held as Delhi readies for Olympic relay

April 17th, 2008 - 12:39 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 17 (IANS) More than 40 Tibetan demonstrators were detained in two separate places early Thursday shortly after the Olympic torch reached the Indian capital from Pakistan. The first of 30 Tibetans were held around 2.30 a.m. near Dhaula Kuan in south Delhi as they tried to block traffic on the road when the torch was being taken under heavy security from the airport to an undisclosed destination, police said.

An hour later, another group of about 10 Tibetans tried to stage a protest outside the Le Meridien Hotel in the heart of the city thinking the torch had been kept in the hotel. They too were detained.

The police are bracing for more demonstrations by Tibetan exiles before and possibly during the Olympic torch relay Thursday afternoon.

The torch reached here on a special aircraft from Islamabad. Those who received it at 1 a.m. included Indian Olympic Association chief Suresh Kalmadi and the Chinese ambassador, Xhang Yan.

Accompanying the torch was a Chinese delegation led by Jiang Xiao Yu, vice president of the Organising Committee of the Beijing Olympics.

A brief ceremony to welcome the delegation was held at the airport amid tight security, with hundreds of policemen surrounding the complex to prevent protests by Tibetans who have vowed to sabotage Thursday’s event.

The Olympic run has been dogged by protests in Paris, London and San Francisco. India is home to some 100,000 Tibetans, the largest number outside Tibet, as well as their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

Indian authorities said the torch would be kept at an “undisclosed” safe house until the relay begins in the afternoon.

The 2.5-km stretch between Rashtrapati Bhawan and the India Gate monument - where the relay will be held - and its surrounding areas have been turned into a virtual fortress.

Thousands of policemen and paramilitary personnel have been deployed in the area. The buildings have been sealed off. Jeeps carrying security personnel have been cruising “vulnerable spots” to ward off disturbances.

The Olympic relay will begin around 3.30 p.m. and the event expected to be over within an hour. The ceremony is out of bounds for everyone except chosen athletes, dignitaries, schoolchildren and the media.

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