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Olympic torch kept hidden ahead of Australian relay

April 24, 2008

Wednesday, April 23, 2008
CBC News

The Olympic flame was being held in a secret location after arriving in
Australia Wednesday, as it enters the final leg of its beleaguered
journey around the globe.

En route from Indonesia, the flame was received at an air base in
Canberra by government and Olympic officials, as well as an Aboriginal
elder. A handful of people waved Chinese flags outside the gates, but
there were no protests.

The flame's clandestine location was meant to deter protesters ahead of
the torch relay in Canberra Thursday, which is expected to draw
thousands of protesters.

"I don't know [the location], and I don't want to know," Australian
relay organizer Ted Quinlan told reporters. "Originally, it was going to
a hotel but there's a distinct possibility it's going to go to the embassy."

Eighty runners will carry the torch along the heavily barricaded
16-kilometre route, where security arrangements will surpass the level
of protection provided to U.S. President George W. Bush during a visit
in 2003, local officials told Reuters.

Hundreds of police will be on hand in the Australian capital to guard
the flame, which will no longer pass by Australia's Parliament House and
near the Chinese Embassy due to security concerns.

Thousands of pro-Tibet protesters are expected to attend Thursday's
event. Some began their demonstrations early, projecting laser signs
that read, "Don't Torch Tibet" on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, according
to Reuters. Australian police gave two people $95 tickets Wednesday for
attempting to unfurl a free-Tibet banner on the same bridge.

A candlelight vigil has also been planned in front of the Chinese Embassy.

"This is not an attempt to mar the Olympics, and it's certainly not an
attack on the Chinese people. It's a message of support for Tibet," said
Simon Bradshaw, campaign co-ordinator of the Australia Tibet Council.
China supporters expected en masse

Pro-China supporters are expected to rival their pro-Tibet counterparts,
including 4,000 Chinese students. Media reports said the Chinese Embassy
had contracted 20 buses to ferry in supporters from Sydney and Melbourne.

Olympic torch relays around the world have been marred by protests and
confrontation as pro-Tibet activists use the events as a platform to
demand autonomy for Tibet and an end to the Chinese-sponsored crackdown
that began there last month.

An Australian social justice advocate scheduled to carry the torch
Thursday has withdrawn from the event out of concerns over China's human
rights record.

Lin Hatfield-Dodds, who was chosen for the relay because she was named
Australian of the Year in her territory for her work with poor and
disadvantaged Australians, said she wants to send the message that human
rights matter.

The torch's next destination is Tokyo.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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