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Olympic Flame handed over to China March 30, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Olympic Games.
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Thousands of spectators gathered in Athens for Sunday’s handover ceremony of the Olympic flame to organizers of the Beijing Games.

30-03-08_panathinaic_stadium.jpg  The Olympic Flame has been officially handed over to Chinese officials. The ceremony took place at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, amid tight security. It comes as demonstrations continue in numerous countries over China’s deadly crackdown on protesters in Tibet. On Saturday EU Foreign Ministers agreed on a joint response. The bloc called for an end to violence and urged China to hold talks on Tibetan cultural and religious rights.

However, the Ministers avoided any mention of the Beijing Olympics or calls for EU countries to boycott the opening ceremony in Beijing. A small group of pro-Tibet activists tried to stop the flame from reaching the stadium but were held back by police. Demonstrations were also held in other parts of Athens.

30-03-08_athens_torch1.jpg  Thousands of Greek and Chinese spectators cheered as Greek triple jumper Hrysopigi Devetzi carried the torch into the stadium, lined with the flags of both countries.

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30-03-08_athens_torch3.jpg  Greek Presidential Guards and actresses dressed as ancient priestesses looked on.

“It was an emotional experience for me,” Devetzi said. “I hope the flame will bring light to all athletes, especially those from Greece and that everything with the Games goes well.”

The President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, Minos Kyriakou, delivered the flame to chief Beijing organizer Liu Qi. The torch later left Athens on a specially equipped Air China flight expected to arrive in Beijing on Monday.

Witnesses say the protesters, waving Tibetan flags and chanting anti-Chinese slogans, were arrested in Athens Sunday while trying to break through police lines to stop a runner carrying the torch from reaching the handover site. Hundreds of Greek police officers were on alert, after sporadic protests last week along the torch relay route from ancient Olympia.

The torch will be flown from Athens to Beijing, where runners will carry it across much of the world in the run-up to the August Summer Games. Pro-Tibetan activists have vowed to shadow the torch on its journey. On one leg of the route, the torch is set to pass through Tibet on its way to Mt. Everest. Human rights groups are demanding a ban on that part of the journey, until Beijing agrees to permit an international investigation of the Tibetan unrest.

More photos from today’s ceremony follow shortly. Stay tuned!

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