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Doubts cast on torch relay future

England cricketer Kevin Pietersen carries the flame through London
The flame's route through London and Paris were disrupted

The international leg of the Olympic torch relay may be scrapped in future after protests in London and Paris disrupted the flame's route to Beijing.

Pro-Tibet demonstrators are angry the summer Games are taking place in China.

The relay's international future will be discussed at an International Olympic Committee meeting in the Chinese capital on Thursday.

"We will discuss this and see what kind of conclusions we have to take," said IOC president Jacques Rogge.

The torch had to be extinguished in Paris on Monday after protesters attempted to seize control of it, with similar scenes in London on Sunday.

This year's 137,000km torch relay will continue as planned but BBC Radio 5 Live sports news correspondent Gordon Farquhar said that some IOC members believe the relay is a mistake.

"The IOC are saying that we're going to have a look at this," he said.

"Some senior and influential figures within the IOC are saying 'we think it was a mistake, we think the torch relay should have stuck to its original plan' - that is you light it in Olympia and you it is taken straight to the host city.

"It doesn't go around the world in this grand gesture.

Using the torch this way is almost a crime. This is the property of the IOC, it is not a Chinese torch.

Swedish IOC member Gunilla Lindberg

"The grand gesture came in because it was felt it could be used as a symbol of unity, peace, and of hope, but that doesn't work if it is being used as a symbol of protest."

IOC press commission chief Kevan Gospar added: "My belief is the torch relay will stay on course.

"There might be adjustments, but I think it would be wrong to try to do anything more than try to get the torch through to its ultimate destination.

"But certainly, the IOC executive board should review the torch relay programme for the future."

Patrick Hickey, head of the 49-member association of European Olympic Committees said: "We have to review if the torch should be allowed to go overseas again.

"It's something we shall discuss later."

The protests in London and Paris have been followed by similar scenes on the next leg of the relay in San Francisco, where seven demonstrators were arrested for tying "Free Tibet" banners to the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge on Tuesday.

"We accept protests and freedom of expression, but this should be non-violent," said Rogge.

"There are many, many athletes who dreamed of holding the torch in their hand and their job has been spoilt."

The protests have been questioned by former Olympic heptathlon gold medallist Denise Lewis, who fears the demonstrations could potentially escalate out of control.

"To be putting innocent people in the line of fire, and possibly danger - who knows what may go on in the other countries to follow? It could get conceivably worse."

Swedish IOC member Gunilla Lindberg said the protests were "damaging the Olympic movement".

"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."

The torch was lit in Olympia, Greece, last week and will go through 20 countries before being carried into the Beijing Games opening ceremony on 8 August.


see also
Radcliffe rejects pollution fears
08 Apr 08 |  Athletics
IOC chief speaks out over Tibet
07 Apr 08 |  Europe
Olympic flame arrives in London
05 Apr 08 |  UK News
Redgrave receives pleas on Tibet
03 Apr 08 |  Olympics


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