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Chaos in Paris, Olympic torch put out twice

April 8, 2008

Associated Press
April 7, 2008

Paris: The Olympic torch was extinguished and put on a bus for
protection at least twice Monday as it moved through Paris amid heavy
protests, including at least one attempt to rush a torch-bearer.

A man identified as a Green Party activist was grabbed by security
officers as he headed for 1997 400-metre world champion Stephane
Diagana, who was carrying the torch at the beginning of its relay from
the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. The man was tackled before he got
close to Diagana.

Later in the relay, police threw other protesters to the ground and
carried some away. The torch was snuffed out and placed on a bus.

It was extinguished and put on a bus again less than an hour later as
protesters booed and began chanting ''Tibet!'' although none appeared to
rush the torch.

The relay resumed but protesters were planning more demonstrations along
Monday's route.

PAST DISRUPTIONS

* The first occurred at the 1976 Summer Olympics held in Montreal,
Canada. A rainstorm doused the Olympic flame a few days after the games
had opened. An official relit the flame using his cigarette lighter.
Organisers quickly doused it again and relit it using a backup of the
original flame.

* In the 2004 Summer Olympics, when the flame came to Greece to start
the relay, the night was windy and the torch blew out. It was re-lit
from the backup flame taken from the original ceremonial flame in Olympia.

London events repeated in Paris

London police on Sunday repeatedly scuffled with protesters decrying
China's human rights record and a recent crackdown on Tibetans. One
tried to grab the torch, while another tried to snuff out the flame with
what appeared to be a fire extinguisher. Thirty-seven people were arrested.

The flame’s round-the-world trip is the longest in Olympic history, and
it is meant to shine a spotlight on China's economic and political
power. But activists have used to publicize anger at Beijing's policies
at home and abroad.

There have been protests since the flame embarked on a 85,000-mile
journey from Ancient Olympia in Greece to Beijing for the Aug. 8-24
Olympic Games.

The torch relay is expected to face demonstrations in San Francisco, New
Delhi and possibly elsewhere on its 21-stop, six-continent tour before
arriving in mainland China on May 4.

Paris police conceived an elaborate security plan to keep the torch in a
safe ''bubble.''

French torchbearers were to be encircled by several hundred officers,
some in riot police vehicles and on motorcycles, others on skates and on
foot. Three boats were also to patrol the Seine River, and a helicopter
was to fly over Paris, police said.

About 80 athletes planned to carry the torch over a 17-mile route that
starts at the Eiffel Tower, heads down the Champs-Elysees avenue toward
City Hall, then crosses over the Seine before ending at the Charlety
track and field stadium.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said in Beijing
on Monday, he was ''very concerned'' about unrest in Tibet, his
strongest comments to date on the political storm surrounding the Games.

''The International Olympic Committee has expressed its serious concern
and calls for a rapid peaceful resolution in Tibet,'' Rogge said. He
added that violent protests, ''for whatever reason,'' are ''not
compatible with the values of the torch relay or the Olympic Games.''
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