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Olympic Torch Lit amid Protest in Greek Ceremony

The Olympic torch began its 85,000 journey to Beijing on Monday, despite attempts by human rights protesters to disrupt the torch-lighting ceremony in ancient Olympia, Greece.

Three demonstrators carrying a black banner with five interlocked handcuffs arranged in the pattern of the Olympic rings broke through tight security and tried to approach Beijing games chief Liu Qi during his speech. Police quickly apprehended the protesters and led them away.

Liu was not distracted by the disruption. "The Olympic flame will radiate light and happiness, peace and friendship, and hope and dreams to the people of China and the whole world," he told the crowd.


Meanwhile, exiled Tibetans pledged to demonstrate against China's security crackdown in the region. They have taken the International Olympic Committee to task for not pressuring Beijing to improve its human rights record.

Police said six people were briefly detained, and three men would be charged with breaching the peace.

On Monday, Germany's Olympic Committee rejected calls to boycott the games because of the crackdown in Tibet. The committee's president said the executive board weighed the pros and cons of a boycott, but concluded that the role of sports is to start dialog and promote understanding — not to exert political pressure.

The committee also said boycotts do not work, recalling that the 1980 Olympics boycott in Moscow had no impact on the invasion of Afghanistan.

The Germans also said they consulted with Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Both groups are against keeping athletes away from the games.


From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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