Olympic Torch Relay Ends without Incident


Rediff

New Delhi, Apr 17: Guarded by as many as 17,000 security personnel, the Beijing Olympic torch was taken through a 2.3 km stretch in Delhi on Thursday with Tibetans protesting in various places in the country.

For over five hours, the majestic Rajpath was turned into a security fortress with the Prime Minister's Office and Ministries of Defence, External Affairs and Finance lining the torch route from Rashtrapati Bhavan shut down.

The truncated run that lasted for about 40 minutes was smooth and incident free.

With a three-layered security ring akin to Republic Day arrangements in place, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit handed over the Olympic flame to Indian Olympic Association President Suresh Kalmadi after it was lit by Vice-Chairman of Beijing Olympics Organising Committee Jiang Yu with the imposing Rashtrapati Bhavan forming the backdrop.

'Flying Sikh' Milkha Singh, one of India's greatest athletes, had the honour to lead the relay before the torch changed hands with nearly 70 celebrites including sportsmen, film stars and politicians taking short runs culminating at the India Gate.

Sportsmen Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupati, Aslam Sher Khan, Dhanraj Pillay, Zafar Iqbal, Wilson Cherian, Khazan Singh, K Malleswari, K Kunjurani, Bishen Singh Bedi were among others who took part in the event.

The tinsel industry was represented by Aamir Khan [Images] and Saif Ali Khan.

Around 60 Tibetans were detained as they attempted to block roads and entered into minor clashes with police in various parts of Delhi.

The public was kept out and all the access roads to the historic stretch was cut off for several hours to ensure a smooth passage of the torch relay, which was earlier plagued by disruptions in London, San Francisco and Paris.

The Beijing Olympic torch relay ended at India Gate in Delhi on Thursday without incident.

The relay began on the historic Rajpath, braving threats from protesting Tibetans.

The short 2.3 km journey of the torch began at Raisina Hill, with former wrestler Satpal being the first person to carry it in the relay that took place under heavy security.

The torch was lit at Raisina Hill by Indian Olympic Association Chief Suresh Kalmadi.

The relay, comprising around 70 participants from all walks of life, saw the torch quickly changing hands as it made its way to the India Gate, where a cauldron waited to be lit.

The torch, that had arrived in Delhi in the early hours of Thursday, was greeted by schoolchildren who had lined up alongside Rajpath, waving the Indian tricolour and Chinese flags.

The other participants in the run were former Indian Hockey team captain Zafar Iqbal, ex-hockey player Aslam Sher Khan and boxer Akhil Kumar.

The relay also featured some Chinese runners, who then passed it on to Indian weightlifter Kunjurani.

The participants, among whom were Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan, ran within a circle of security personnel.

Khan passed on the flame, that earlier made a grand entry at Rajpath in a long convoy, to former hockey captain Dhanraj Pillay.

The relay, that has been through troubled times in its London and Paris editions, has seen the likes of Bhaichung Bhutia, Kiran Bedi, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Gandhi, Jaspal Rana and Ayaan Ali not participating owing to various reasons.

Besides sportspersons, there were many people from various walks of life who participated in the relay.

There were very few spectators for the relay possibly due to the tight security arrangements put in place.

The relay has so far been smooth although Tibetan refugees staged protests in various parts of Delhi coinciding with the torch run in protest against the Chinese administration.

Eight protestors, including five women, were detained from Janpath as the torch relay began at the historic Rajpath.

Two Tibetans and an Indian first tried to move towards the security barrier and started slogans like "Save Tibet" and throwing anti-China and pro-Tibet pamphlets.

They were immediately taken into custody by police.

Minutes later, a group of five, including four women, emerged on Janpath shouting the same slogans.

Police, who were in large numbers, immediately detained them even as a protestor broke down and argued why they were not even allowed to protest in a non-violent manner.

A group of Tibetan protesters tried to barge into Rashtrapati Bhavan evening as part of their demonstrations coinciding with the Beijing Olympic torch relay even as police used mild force to prevent them.

The protestors, numbering about 30, descended upon the Rashtrapati Bhavan's Gate No. 38 located in North Avenue at around 4.45 pm, taking the police by surprise.

There were only a few policemen on the spot, but more force was rushed.

Police used mild force, including baton charging, to prevent them from entering the official residence of the President of India.

All of them were taken into custody and were taken to a nearby police station.

  

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