Heightened security for Japan torch relay draws complaints

April 24th, 2008 - 3:19 pm ICT by admin  

Tokyo, April 24 (DPA) Tight security for Saturday’s Japan leg of the Olympic torch relay may make it difficult for spectators to catch a glimpse of the flame and is drawing complaints from residents of the central city of Nagano. The Nagano torch relay committee decided to ban the general public from the torch-lighting and closing ceremonies, and otherwise, spectators would have a slim chance of setting eyes on the Beijing Olympic torch while 80 runners pass it along a 18.7-km route, committee member Kunihiko Shinohara was quoted by the Jiji Press news agency as saying.

More than 100 police officers and Olympic committee members from China are to accompany the torch during the run, breaking the sight lines of the roadside spectators in Nagano, the host of the 1998 Winter Olympics.

“We initially hoped to have many spectators to cheer the relay, but we needed to give priority to safety and a smooth procession,” Shinohara said.

Out of security and safety concerns, the committee also decided to withhold the names of the runners except for Japan’s national baseball coach, Senichi Hoshino, and Olympic marathon gold medallist Mizuki Noguchi.

Local residents expressed anger over the tight security.

“If we can’t even see the torch, they might as well cancel the torch relay,” a Nagano resident told the Mainich Shimbun newspaper Thursday.

Japanese police and the committee ratcheted up security after China’s crackdown on Tibetan protests and unrest caused anti-China demonstrations and disturbances on other legs of the torch relay, including Paris, London and San Francisco.

In Nagano, the Buddhist Zenkoji Temple, the city’s main landmark, refused last week to host Saturday’s opening ceremony as its monks expressed sympathy for and solidarity with Tibet’s monks.

The temple instead plans to hold a memorial service Saturday to mourn the victims of last month’s anti-China unrest in Tibet.

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