Beijing torch Athens handover amid tight security

Hundreds of Athenians watched Sunday's handover of the Olympic flame to organizers of the Beijing Games.

Source: AP

Security remained tight across Athens following sporadic protests Saturday by pro-Tibet and anti-globalization groups against China's human rights abuses and its crackdown against recent riots in Tibet.

Police posted guards atop and around the Acropolis, blocking all access to the ancient site where the flame spent the night, after a weeklong relay around Greece. Some 2,000 police remained deployed around Athens.

Sunday's ceremony is due to take place at 1200 GMT at the marble Panathenian stadium, where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896.

The heavy security was ordered after protests disrupted the flame lighting ceremony at Ancient Olympia on March 24, and other small demonstrations were held along the relay route.

Greek Olympic organizers have angrily condemned the protests, while two journalist groups and the small Left Coalition Party have spoken out in their support.

International media were banned from covering the flame's arrival at the Acropolis, prompting news agencies, including The Associated Press, to refuse to distribute handout photographs.

Greek state television made little mention of the protests and cut to a general scene of Olympia, where the protests during the flame lighting event were held at the site by three members of the French-based group Reporters Without Borders.

At Sunday's ceremony, Minos Kyriakou, president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, will deliver the flame to chief Beijing organizer Liu Qi.

The torch is to arrive March 31 in Beijing, on a purpose-fitted airliner. It then will travel through 20 countries before returning to mainland China.


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