High security at Olympic ceremony

A ceremony is due to be held in Greece to light the torch that will be carried to Beijing for the Olympic Games.

Hundreds of police will be on patrol around ancient Olympia, where the Games originated almost 3,000 years ago.

Security is tight to prevent disruption by activists, who have vowed to protest over the violence in and around Tibet.

The head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) defended the decision to hold the Games in China saying there was "no momentum" for a boycott.

"The major political leaders don't want a boycott," said IOC president Jacques Rogge said ahead of Monday's ceremony.

The torch is to travel through 20 countries - and scale Mount Everest - before the Beijing Games open on 8 August.

'China will change'

The flame-lighting ceremony, beside the Temple of Hera, will be televised and shown around the world.

The torch is traditionally held inside a parabolic mirror and ignited by the sun's rays.

Cloudy skies meant the flame could not be lit in the traditional way at the dress rehearsal on Sunday and with storms forecast, organisers have moved the ceremony by an hour to avoid the rain.

If the weather fails to play its part, a back-up flame will be used to light the torch that will be carried to China.

Thousands of people are expected to attend the ceremony, including Liu Qi, head of the Beijing Olympic organising committee, and the president and prime minister of Greece.

On Sunday, Mr Rogge described recent events in Tibet as "a matter of great concern to the IOC".

The Olympics, he said, while "not a panacea for all ills", were a force for good that could prompt change.

"We believe that China will change by opening the country to the scrutiny of the world through the 25,000 media who will attend the Games," he said.

'Bloodstained torch'

Tibetan independence activists say they will protest in Olympia during the ceremony.

Tenzin Dorjee, deputy director of Students for a Free Tibet, said that the IOC should prevent the torch from passing through Tibet.

"Carrying China's bloodstained torch through Tibet where we are seeing evidence of discontent would be adding insult to 50 years of injury," he said.

But Chinese authorities say the route has been set and the torch-bearers chosen.

The torch relay team would work "with all concerned units, taking very seriously and cooperating with security and protection work, and strictly guarding against disturbances and sabotage by the Dalai clique", an unnamed official from the Tibet sports authority told the state-run Tibet Daily.

Anti-China protests began in Tibet's main city, Lhasa, on 10 March and gradually escalated. Lhasa saw at least two days of violence and there have also been violent protests in provinces which border Tibet.

China says 19 people were killed by rioters and accuses Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama of inciting the violence.

The Tibetan government-in-exile says at least 99 people have died in a crackdown by Chinese troops and deny any role in organising the protests.

Copyright © 2008 BBC

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BBC – http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7310654.stm