Olympic flame extinguished as protesters disrupt relay in Paris

April 7th, 2008 - 8:31 pm ICT by admin  

Paris, April 7 (DPA) The Olympic torch was briefly extinguished for what police officials called “technical reasons” Monday as a large number of anti-Chinese protesters disrupted its course through Paris, BFM television reported. However, the Olympic flame itself - which must never be snuffed out before reaching its goal - was kept alive in the Olympic lamp, police said.

An International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman said that they could not comment on the incidents. “The torch is responsibility of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Games and the local Olympic committee.”

He added that the Olympic flame “never dies”.

On Monday protests forced police officers accompanying the torch to interrupt its course at least twice and temporarily secure it on a bus to protect it from the many pro-Tibetan demonstrators lining its 28-km course.

The incidents occurred about one hour after former world 400-metre-hurdles champion Stephane Diagana left the first level of the Eiffel Tower on the first leg of the torch’s scheduled itinerary through the French capital.

At least four protesters have been taken into custody, BFM reported.

Because more anti-Chinese protests were expected in Paris after the torch’s tumultuous passage through London on Sunday, when at least 36 people were arrested, a heavy police presence was deployed along its planned course.

Some 3,000 police officers were stationed on the ground, in the air and even on the Seine River, while the torch was accompanied by a tight security perimeter of some 400 police officers on foot, motorcycles and roller blades as well as in cars.

The media rights group Reporters Without Borders had vowed to carry out protests that will be “symbolic, spectacular … but respectful of the Games.”

The group was at the heart of pro-Tibetan protests at the torch-lighting ceremony in Greece and has called for an international boycott of the August 8 opening ceremonies in Beijing.

Both French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner have said that “all options are open” regarding a possible boycott of the ceremonies.

Tibetan nationals living in France were holding a “citizen’s day of solidarity” at the Square of Human Rights not far from the Eiffel Tower to protest the Chinese crackdown on Tibetan pro-independence demonstrations.

Paris is the final European stop for the torch, which will then be transported to the American continent for appearances in San Francisco on Wednesday and Buenos Aires Friday.

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