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Torch Lit in Olympia on Tibetan National Uprising Day

March 12, 2008

Tibetan launch Olympic Freedon Torch relay in Greece

Torch bearers harassed, followed by Chinese and Greek Security

Tibetan Youth Association Europe * Students for a Free Tibet *
International Tibet Support Network

March 10, 2008

Olympia, Greece - Tibetans launched the Tibetan Freedom Torch Relay in
Olympia today under intense scrutiny and harassment from Greek police
and 15 to 20 Chinese government officials. Despite the excessive
police presence, the twelve Tibetans carried out the lighting ceremony
in front of the ancient archaeological site of Olympia, Greece,
pre-empting China's Olympic Torch Relay launch there later this month.
The Tibetan Freedom Torch represents the hopes and aspirations of the
Tibetan people for freedom and justice and will be carried to more
than 20 countries worldwide, reaching Tibet on the eve of the Beijing
Games. The Freedom Torch also highlights Tibetan opposition to the
Chinese government's politically motivated plan to carry the Olympic
Torch through Tibet and to the top of Mount Everest.

"China's Olympic slogan, "One World, One Dream," rings hollow for
Tibetans, who under Chinese occupation have been denied the right to
represent our nation at the Olympic Games," said Tsultrim Dolma Gope,
a Swiss-Tibetan shot-putter and Team Tibet member. "We are lighting
the Tibetan Freedom Torch to show that young Tibetans are determined
to one day compete under the Tibetan flag."

Tenzin Dorjee, the Tibetan-American detained last April in Tibet for
protesting China's trial ascent of Mount Everest with the Olympic
Torch, was one of the torchbearers. "The flame of Tibetan freedom
burns brightly in our hearts," said Dorjee. "Today, 8,700 kilometres
from Beijing, we were watched and harassed by 20 Chinese government
agents and dozens of Greek police. The intense opposition to our
peaceful torch ceremony underscores China's constant repression of
Tibetans' undying determination to regain our freedom. Despite this
opposition, the Tibetan Freedom Torch will carry the message of truth
and resistance worldwide, exposing China's Olympic lies. "

"China's so called "Journey of Harmony" makes a mockery of the true
Olympic ideals of peace and unity amongst nations," said Kelsang Gope,
a representative of the National Olympic Committee Tibet. "On the
contrary, instead of upholding these ideals, the International Olympic
Committee's main concern seems to be the pursuit of its own business
interest and that of its corporate sponsors. The participation of Team
Tibet in the Games would have exposed the hypocritical show that the
Beijing Olympics represent." In December 2007, the International
Olympic Committee rejected Team Tibet's official application to
compete at the Beijing Olympics.

The lighting ceremony included traditional Tibetan incense offerings
by five "Lhamos" or Tibetan goddesses, and the singing of the Tibetan
National Anthem. The Freedom Torch lighting ceremony also marked the
commemoration of the 49th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan National
Uprising when tens of thousands of Tibetans in Lhasa and across Tibet
rose up against China's occupation of their homeland.
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