The torch in Paris amid protests and tight security
Paris (AsiaNews) – Enormous security measures have been set in place in Paris today ahead of the arrival of the Olympic torch, following yesterday’s clashes in London between police and anti-China protesters. In Paris, police plan to secure a perimeter of some 200 metres around the torch as it is carried in relay by 80 runners on a 28-kilometre route from the Eiffel Tower to a stadium in the south of the capital. The torch bearers will be protected by a cordon of 65 motorcycle police, 100 firemen, another 100 police on roller blades and nearly 50 vehicles with more than 200 riot police.
The “journey of harmony” is slowly being transformed into a type of obstacle course. Groups of Reporters without Borders, who already disrupted the lightening of the flame in Athens, have promised to stage “symbolic, spectacular” actions, but carried out “with respect for the games.” Referring to the heavy security measures which have been put in place, Robert Menard, who also took part in the Athens protest, said: "The Chinese have made sure that for a few hours, Paris will look like Tiananmen Square, I think it's shameful."
The torch arrived in the French capital late last night after a day of chaos in London, where police arrested 37 people who tried to stop the torch and even put out the flame with a fire extinguisher. Among them where groups protesting Chinese actions in Darfur as well as Tibetan students. Police changed the route of the torch, allowing the Chinese Ambassador to carry the Olympic flame through Chinatown, through the jubilant crowds. Then in order to protect it from protesters, the Torch was carried on board a bus. Along with those demonstrating against human rights violations in China, there was also a small contingent of Chinese supporters also tried to make their voices heard, waving Chinese and Olympic flags and calling for "one China".
Images of the protests were not seen in China. A dispatch by state news agency Xinhua describes a “vile attempt” by a “small pro Tibetan group” to sabotage the passage of the Olympic flame, which “symbolizes peace, friendship and progress”, against the “tens of thousands of people” who “celebrated the event”.
Days ago French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he did not exclude a boycott of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing. The French minister for Human Rights, Rama Yade, in an interview with the daily newspaper le Monde (5/4/2008) insinuated that Sarkozy has placed conditions on his participation: dialogue with the Dalai Lama and the release of all political prisoners. But shortly after publication she denied using the term “conditions”.