British police on Sunday arrested 37 persons attempting to disrupt the Olympic torch relay in London while many locals expressed indignation at the attempt and a Beijing Olympic official condemned it. [Click to see the video of the shameful disturbance] [Full coverage]
The persons were arrested for public order offences, police said. One of those arrested tried to grab the torch from a relay participant, but he was immediately pushed down to the ground and taken away by the police. Another two were detained for their attempt to disrupt the relay with a fire extinguisher.
London welcomed the Olympic Flame on Sunday as part of the global Olympic Torch Relay in the run-up to the Beijing Olympic Games. As a grand festival in London, tens of thousands people lined the route of the relay to cheer the event, far outnumbering protesters.
Many spectators voiced disapproval of attempts to disrupt the torch relay by those who claimed they had done so for "political causes."
Deng Zhuting, president of the London Chinatown Chinese Association, said the attempt by a handful of Tibetan separatists to sabotage the Beijing Olympic torch relay violated the Olympic spirit and was insulting to those who love the Olympic Games.
Anyone who has a sense of righteousness would not tolerate such action, Deng said.
Nick, a British university student who was watching the event in central London, said that "sports should be separated from political things."
Cathy Sing, a London resident, said that she was puzzled by the protesters who said they were supporting the "independence of Tibet."
"Tibet has been part of China for several hundred years," she said, adding that the disruption had been well-planned to tarnish China's image.
"Someone wants to disrupt the (Beijing Olympic) Games, which is no good," she said.
A spokesman for the torch relay center of the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee said the Olympic flame, as the highest symbol of the Olympic spirit, represents peace, friendship and progress.
Authorized by the International Olympic Committee, the Beijing Olympic torch relay is taking its global journey of harmony to share the passion and glory of the Olympics with the world and has received warm welcome from local people on every stop, the spokesman said.
The spokesman condemned the attempt by a handful of Tibetan separatists to sabotage the torch relay in London. The Olympic flame belongs to the world and the act of violating the Olympic spirit will surely arouse the indignation of the peace-loving people and is bound to fail, he added.
The torch was traveling through ten London boroughs from Wembley in the west to Greenwich in east London, with each borough marking its arrival with entertainment and local events, bringing London's color and vibrancy to life while showcasing the capital's famous landmarks.
The 2008 Olympic flame was ignited on March 24 in Ancient Olympia of Greece and was handed over to Beijing on March 31 after a six-day relay in Greece.
The 130-day torch relay will cover 137,000 km before the flame returns to Beijing and enters the National Stadium on Aug. 8 for the Olympics' opening ceremony.
A total of 21,880 torch bearers will be participating in the unprecedented relay, which is held under the theme of "Journey of Harmony."
(Xinhua News Agency April 7, 2008)