Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

IOC considers scrapping Olympic flame relay

Lord Coe: Chinese torch officials are 'horrible thugs'

French athlete Stephane Diagana, surrouned by Chinese officials, holds the Olympic torch in front of the Eiffel Tower

The International Olympic Committee is to discuss the possibility of scrapping the torch relay ahead of this year's Beijing Games.

The relay has already been disrupted by pro-Tibet protestors in London and Paris and is expected to face a similar reaction on its next journey through San Francisco.

IOC president Jacques Rogge has now confirmed that the issue will be discussed by the organisation on Friday.

Gunilla Lindberg, a Swedish IOC member, said: “I think it is very sad. I get angry. Using the torch this way is almost a crime. This is the property of the IOC, it is not a Chinese torch."

Yesterday the Chinese officials who have marshalled the Olympic torch were described by the organiser of the 2012 London Games as “thugs”.

Lord Coe, Olympic medallist and chairman of the 2012 London Olympic Committee, was overheard by Channel 4 News criticising the men in blue tracksuits.

He said if the organisers should do “one thing in Paris, it is to get rid of those guys. They tried to push me out of the way three times. They are horrible. They did not speak English . . . I think they were thugs.”

After Konnie Huq finished her brief leg of London's torch relay on Sunday, she called a friend on her mobile phone.

"Did you see those blokes in the blue tracksuits?" the former Blue Peter presenter was heard saying. "They were bloody aggressive, weren't they?"

Little is known about the mysterious guards accompanying the flame on its journey. Officially the minders are "flame attendants" employed by the Beijing Olympic Organising Committee (Bocog), which has organised the global relay. They are reportedly well-trained security officers under the remit of the Beijing Games co-ordinators, who have sweeping political powers in China.

Shami Chakrabati, director of the human rights group Liberty, said: " Everyone appreciates the difficult duty of our police to hold the line between the Olympic ceremony and critics and supporters of the Chinese regime.

"But who were the ominous figures running in formation in light blue uniforms? Where was their lawful authority to scuffle with policemen and protesters?"

Yesterday in Paris, the attendants were forced to extinguish the flame after scuffles.

Protests in Paris

Relay route

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