Olympic torchbearer pulls out of Canberra relay

April 22nd, 2008 - 12:47 pm ICT by admin  

Sydney, April 22 (DPA) A social-justice advocate has pulled out of Thursday’s Canberra-leg of the troubled Olympic torch relay over human-rights concerns. Torchbearer Lin Hatfield Dodds described it as a difficult but well thought-out decision.

“Choosing not to run is making a very clear and unambiguous statement, I hope, on behalf of myself but also on behalf of the Uniting Church and Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) that we will always choose to stand with those who are the least and those who are the most vulnerable,” said Dodds.

Dodd, president of ACOSS and national director of UnitingCare Australia, was chosen as a torch bearer for being the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Australian of the Year.

“I was delighted to accept the invitation to run with the torch much earlier this year, and I was very grieved to see violence come into play between China and Tibet,” Dodds said.

“And because of that, I’ve felt that the meaning of the running in the torch relay has really shifted. I hope that it sends a message to the world at large that human rights matter.”

A strong Australian police contingent will guard the barricaded 16-kilometre relay route as the torch makes its way past national landmarks including Parliament House, the National Library and Australian War Memorial and within 200 meters of the Chinese embassy before returning to the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in the capital.

Amid concerns that the event will be marred by “football hooliganism”, organisers said the route could be changed at the last minute.

The cost of hosting the event has soared to almost $1.8 million.

“If any protestor, irrespective of their political point of view, engages in unruly, disruptive, violent, unlawful behaviour, then the police will come down on them like a tonne of bricks. Peaceful protest, yes. Violent protest, under no circumstances,” Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told ABC TV Tuesday.

“The physical security of the Olympic torch will be provided by Australian security officials only. And the role of representatives of the Beijing Olympic Committee will be simply to attend physically to the lighting and relighting of the flame itself.”

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