Page last updated at 17:38 GMT, Thursday, 17 April 2008 18:38 UK

Heavy security for torch in Delhi

Olympic torch relay in Delhi (17 April 2008)
No exact times were given for the torch relay amid fears of protests

The Olympic torch relay has completed the latest leg of its world tour in India's capital, Delhi, amid heavy security to protect it from protests.

Some 16,000 police sealed off the city centre along the truncated relay route.

At least 100 pro-Tibet activists were held in Delhi, police sources said, but the event passed off without the anti-China protests seen elsewhere.

Earlier, Tibetan exile groups organised a peaceful alternative torch relay involving politicians and celebrities.

India is home to the world's largest community of Tibetan exiles, as well as their government-in-exile and spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Last week, India's foreign minister told his Chinese counterpart that the government would take steps to ensure the torch's safe passage.

Sterile atmosphere

The Indian press had described the capital as "Fortress Delhi" prior to the arrival of the Olympic torch from Pakistan on Thursday.

Apart from about 500 dignitaries and a group of school children invited to watch, the public was kept well away from the flame as it was carried 3km (1.9 miles) along the Rajpath, from the presidential palace to India Gate.

Map of original and revised Olympic torch routes through Delhi and protest march route
Route shortened by 6km on security grounds
Torch carried along Rajpath from Presidential palace to India Gate
Protest march runs from Gandhi Memorial to Jantar Mantar

Three lines of police checkpoints guarded every entrance and exit to the ceremonial avenue and a cordon of Indian and Chinese security personnel in red and blue tracksuits surrounded the torchbearers at every moment.

The route, which was cut to a third of its original 9km distance on security grounds, left the 70 runners only able to carry the torch for a few metres before having to pass it on.

The BBC's Chris Morris in Delhi says that the atmosphere was sterile at best, with no members of the public to be seen at the start and only a small crowd sitting around an Olympic cauldron at the end.

Our correspondent says it was a day that probably left no-one entirely satisfied and the Olympic spirit rather tarnished.

In the run-up to the ceremony, the authorities closed many main roads in central Delhi, creating huge traffic jams, and sealed off the area for five hours.

Workers in the many government offices overlooking the route were told not to look out of their windows to look because of the perceived security threat.

Security patrols in the surrounding area were issued with blankets and fire extinguishers in case protesters set themselves on fire.

No exact times were given for the relay in advance amid fears of protests by India's 100,000-strong Tibetan exile community, some of whom had threatened to disrupt the event.

Mumbai arrests

Earlier in the day, hundreds of Tibetan exiles had taken part in their own, alternative torch relay in Delhi, chanting slogans against China as they set off from the mausoleum of India's independence leader, Mahatma Gandhi.

Indian paramilitary police outside the Meridien hotel in Delhi, where the Olympic torch was kept overnight (17 April 2008)
India's government promised to ensure the torch's safe passage through Delhi

The alternative torch arrived at the Jantar Mantar surrounded by Tibetan flags and young men wearing headbands saying "Free Tibet".

There were also pro-Tibet protests on Thursday outside the Chinese consulate in the Indian financial centre of Mumbai, where at least 55 people were detained by police.

In the Indian Himalayan region of Ladakh, which borders Tibet, at least 5,000 Tibetan exiles and local Buddhists participated in a march in the town of Leh.

In Nepal, more than 500 members of the Tibetan exile community were arrested in the capital, Kathmandu, during demonstrations near Chinese diplomatic buildings.

Other cities preparing to receive the torch are making preparations following the chaotic scenes in London, Paris and San Francisco.

In the Australian capital, Canberra, police have been given extra powers to search those watching the relay for items such as guns and knives.


Protesters in Delhi as tensions simmer ahead of the torch's arrival

The Chinese government has meanwhile appealed for understanding over the actions of the torch's controversial security guards, who have been criticised for being heavy-handed with protesters.

"Relevant countries should have a clear understanding of the rules of the escorts and understand their work," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.

"They have used their bodies to protect the torch, so their acts should be praised and the violent acts of those Tibet independence elements be condemned."

Ms Jiang said that providing security escorts for the torch had been common practice during previous Olympic Games and that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had "given its 100% support".

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

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