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Canberra cheers the torch along
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The 16-km Olympic torch relay in the Australian capital - the only Oceania leg on its international journey - finished smoothly yesterday morning with thousands of Chinese-flag-waving supporters cheering it on.

Legendary Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe, who carried the torch for the last run, lit the community cauldron at the closing ceremony.

Legendary Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe carries the Olympic torch as thousands of people cheered on in Canberra yesterday.

Legendary Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe carries the Olympic torch as thousands of people cheered on in Canberra yesterday.

"It was very exciting, obviously. Everybody has watched this and seen this has been an incredible success for the Olympic movement it's been a great event. I was very excited today," said the five-time Olympian gold medalist, who competed in Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004.

"This (being a torchbearer) symbolizes the Olympic movement and being able to share with the rest of the world," added Thorpe, who was a torchbearer for the first time. He reportedly skipped the relays in the two previous Games because of training.

Tens of thousands of Chinese - most of them students who had traveled from Sydney, Melbourne and other parts of Australia and New Zealand - waved Chinese national and Olympic flags along the relay route.

The heart of Canberra's CBD came alive when the torch made its way through Civic Square. Workers, shoppers and diners took time out to cheer on the torchbearers as the relay made its way along Northbourne Avenue.

A handful of Tibetan separatists and their supporters were detained following minor scuffles with Chinese students during the relay.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said earlier: "If any protester, irrespective of their political point of view, engages in unruly, disruptive, violent, unlawful behavior, then the police will come down on them like a ton of bricks."

Australian Olympic Committee media director Mike Tancred said: "It's a shame about what happened in London and Paris. We are showing we can do better today. A large population from Chinese communities in Australia came together to celebrate here, that's the Olympic spirit.

"Everything has gone wonderfully, the relay, the spectators and the celebrations. Over 500 journalists from around the world came to Canberra today. It's great exposure for Australia, especially great exposure for Canberra."

Beijing Olympic Torch Relay spokesman Qu Yingpu said at the closing ceremony: "The minority of protesters were completely overwhelmed by the sea of supporters for the Olympics and the Olympic Torch Relay."

The Olympic flame left for Japan last night, where the relay is scheduled to be held in Nagano on Saturday.

(China Daily April 25, 2008)

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