Page last updated at 21:19 GMT, Friday, 11 April 2008 22:19 UK

Argentine torch relay unhindered

 Zhang Hao from China carries the Olympic flame in Buenos Aires 11 April
The torch procession was held amid tight security

Argentine athletes have carried the Olympic torch through the streets of Buenos Aires, on the latest leg of its troubled world tour.

A major security operation was mounted to try to avoid the scenes that marred the relay in the UK, France and the US.

Both anti-China protesters and supporters of the Beijing Games turned out, but only minor scuffles were reported and the torch was not impeded.

One local man described the parade as "beautiful, a marvellous spectacle".

Anti-China activists had promised some "entertaining surprises", but nothing serious emerged, and the only apparent attempt to derail the relay were a few water balloons thrown at the torch, easily deflected by guards.

Torch cheered

Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri lit the torch and after an elaborate artistic display it was carried through the city's streets and along its canal by Argentine athletes and rowers.

Activist Jorge Carcavallo unfurled a giant banner on the torch route reading "Free Tibet".

Chinese supporters cheer the Olympic torch in Buenos Aires

And members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is banned in China, lit their own "human rights torch" and marched along the route the flame was to take.

Police separated the few dozen pro-Tibet demonstrators from a similar-sized group of Chinese residents, who waved the Chinese flag and sang the national anthem as they prepared to cheer the torch.

But most spectators appeared to be intent on supporting the torch as it passed.

The torch's relay around the world has become a focus for people angry about China's human rights record and its crackdown on recent demonstrations in Tibet.

Scuffles broke out in London and Paris as protesters tried to obstruct the flame's progress, grab it or even put it out.

The relay has also sparked counter-protests by Chinese expatriates keen to show support for their country and the Olympic Games.

'Public oppose boycott'

The politics has overshadowed the sporting celebration that the Beijing organisers and the International Olympic Committee intended the torch relay to be.

The head of the IOC, Jacques Rogge, has spoken of a "crisis", and the organisation has been forced to consider the future of the torch relay.

But Mr Rogge insisted there was no public support for a boycott of the Olympics. "The athletes don't want it and the public does not want it," he told the BBC.

IOC Chairman Jacques Rogge in Beijing on 10 April 2008
IOC Chairman Jacques Rogge has spoken of "crisis"

He said it was "sad" that the torch relay had been disrupted by protests, since "the torch does not belong to Beijing or China. It is the torch of humanity".

Speaking in Beijing, he also praised "excellent" preparations for the Olympics and said he was "optimistic the Games will be a great success". He said the IOC had no right to tell China how to deal with sovereign issues like Tibet and human rights.

On Thursday Beijing had rebuked him for urging China to respect its "moral engagement" to improve human rights.

China also expressed its "strong indignation" after the US Congress passed a resolution calling on Beijing to stop cracking down on Tibetan dissent and to talk to the Dalai Lama.

Carter demurs

The BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Beijing says China had been hoping for an impressive roll call of world leaders at the opening ceremony on 8 August for "the greatest show on earth".

But UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have said they will not go, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is undecided and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says he may not make it.

US President George W Bush is under pressure from White House hopefuls John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama not to attend.

However, former US President Jimmy Carter, who was in office when the US boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics, said to do the same now would be "a serious mistake".

While there were undoubtedly human rights abuses in China, he said, the USSR had in 1980 just invaded Afghanistan.

China insists it is unconcerned about reports of potential boycotts.

"The Beijing Olympics opening ceremony is not a leaders' summit," said Zhan Yongxin of the Chinese foreign ministry, quoted by Reuters.

After Buenos Aires, the next stop is Tanzania.

Japan on Friday said it would not let the torch's Chinese security guards, who have attracted criticism for barging protesters aside, accompany the torch on Japanese soil.

Torch lit in Olympia on 24 March and taken on five-day relay around Greece to Athens
After handover ceremony, taken to Beijing on 31 March to begin a journey of 136,800 km (85,000 miles) around the world
Torch arrives in Macau on 3 May. After three-month relay all around China, it arrives in Beijing for opening ceremony on 8 August

video and audio news
Jacques Rogge on the IOC's 'ethical values'


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific