Page last updated at 08:34 GMT, Saturday, 12 April 2008 09:34 UK

Relief after Argentina torch relay

By Gary Duffy
BBC News, Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires Tibet protestor
Pro-Tibet protests were muted during the torch's South American leg

Despite the fear of yet another round of large-scale protests, the Olympic torch relay's only stop in Latin America did not spark the same level of outrage as seen in other major cities.

While the thousands of police lining the route signalled that the authorities were prepared for the worst, pro-Tibet activists chose to air their grievances without attempting to douse the flame.

The official ceremony showcased a celebratory symphony, ballet dancers, a military band and tango performances, but behind the scenes a strong security presence included a cast of menacing-looking officials and well-built guards ready to pounce on any daring protesters.

On an official level, there is a great deal of pride here that Buenos Aires was chosen as the only Spanish-speaking city and the only city in Latin America to host a leg of the torch relay, and even the protesters adopted a reasonable tone.

Although they had said beforehand that they would be able to extinguish the torch if they wanted to, Argentina's critics of China's Tibet policy declared their protest would be peaceful and that there would be no attempt to put out the flame.

Sigh of relief

Talking to a range of people, young and old, on the streets of Buenos Aires, it was clear that few people have been actively engaged with the story of the large-scale torch relay protests that dominated the news in London, Paris and San Francisco.

Domestically, Argentines have a lot on their mind at the moment, with recent protests by farmers just one problem they have had to confront.

So while there was some sympathy expressed for the pro-Tibet protests, there was little understanding of what was going on and why. The story has not grabbed the headlines in Argentina as strongly as it has elsewhere.

The smooth 13-kilometre torch relay through the streets of Buenos Aires will almost certainly bring a sigh of relief in Beijing after the recent raft of negative headlines.

Torch relay Buenos Aires
Supporters of the Beijing Olympics were out in force in Buenos Aires

Members of Argentina's Chinese community were out in force to show support for the Beijing Olympics, alongside human rights groups determined to voice their objections.

The closest the relay came to a flare-up was some pushing and shoving near the city's landmark Obelisk when "Free Tibet" banners were unfurled.

Despite the odd scuffle, the torch continued unimpeded and in a city where protests have often turned into ugly conflicts, the low-key nature of the protest was notable for its peaceful nature.

In among a sea of Red flags held by Chinese supporters, the protesters did at times look somewhat isolated.

But they felt they had made their point and carried forward the issues raised in other cities such as London.

And while the torch relay managed to avoid major disruption in South America, the pressure is likely to have eased only temporarily.

Argentine torch relay unhindered
11 Apr 08 |  Americas

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