Olympics protest threat grows

The Olympic Torch will arrive in Athens today ahead of its handover to Beijing officials amid heavy security with authorities anxious to prevent a repetition of protests that disrupted the flame’s lighting ceremony earlier this week. Activists and Tibetan demonstrators disrupted the globally televised Beijing torch-lighting ceremony at Ancient Olympia on Monday, breaking a tight security cordon and unfurling protest banners during the Games organizing chief’s speech. Further protests marred the start of the relay, with demonstrators lying on the ground in front of the vehicle convoy accompanying the torch-bearers in Olympia and holding up the relay several times. «We are planning several actions for Sunday and Monday in Athens to demonstrate against China, for sure,» Students for a Free Tibet representative Tashi Sering told Reuters. «On Monday, we will also have a peace march in central Athens.» The flame will depart for China on Monday. More than 2,000 officers are to be deployed around the Greek capital this weekend. The flame will reach the capital today, spending the night on the Acropolis. Media have been banned from the Acropolis during the flame’s arrival. A ceremony to mark the handing over of the flame will also be held at the Panathenaic Stadium in central Athens tomorrow in front of an estimated 20,000 people. Greek officials kept details of the route’s Athens leg under tight wraps yesterday, fearing further protest action. Police said the precise route was not being made public for security reasons. A Greek human rights group said yesterday police prevented its members from displaying a banner saying «No to the games of blood, dope and kickbacks» along the relay route in the city of Volos, and arrested one protester. Also, a group of Danish activists said police stopped 10 of its members dressed in orange from being «a peaceful part of the torch relay» near the city of Larissa. The event was organized by a group led by Danish artist Jens Galschioet.

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