Tight security ensures smooth run for Olympic flame in Delhi

Other News Materials 17 April 2008 19:05 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - The Olympic torch relay concluded its run in New Delhi on Thursday without any disruptions from Tibetan activists as authorities in the Indian capital mounted unprecedented security measures to prevent the protests.

The short relay of 2.6 kilometres which began at India's Presidential Palace and ended at the India Gate was guarded by 15,000 policemen and paramilitary personnel and took less than an hour to complete.

Indian sportspersons and personalities escorted by commandos from the Delhi Police and Chinese security teams, hastily passed the torch to each other in the run that was shortened from the original 9 kilometres owing to the security concerns.

More than 65 torch-bearers, including former Indian hockey captain Zafar Iqbal, tennis player Leander Paes, athlete Anju Bobby George and film-stars Aamir Khan and Saif Ali Khan participated in the relay.

Nervous Indian security agencies had practically shut down the area in the heart of New Delhi to prevent Tibetan demonstrators from disrupting the relay.

The entry to the torch-run was closed to the general public and only participating schoolchildren and special invitees of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) were allowed at the venue.

Besides the huge contingent of police and security personnel as well as surveillance helicopters guarding the relay stretch, multi- layered security was deployed to prevent any protestors infiltrating the area.

But thousands of exiled Tibetans staged demonstrations and organized a parallel torch run in the Indian capital, condemning the Beijing Olympic flame as that of "shame and bloodshed."

Police said more than 60 Tibetans were detained following protests across Delhi, which was turned into a virtual fortress after the Olympic flame landed in the city from Islamabad early on Thursday morning.

Through Thursday, more than 20 Tibetans who had attempted to barge into the Le Meridien hotel, where the torch was kept, were stopped and whisked away to the local police station.

Tibetan refugee groups in India have been holding protests leading up to the torch relay and the Beijing Olympics, saying they want to use the occasion to draw international attention to China's human rights violations in Tibet.

The India leg of the torch relay was considered one of the most sensitive, as the country is home to about 100,000 Tibetan refugees, estimated to be the largest concentration of Tibetans outside Tibet.

Local media reported that India's ace shooter Jaspal Rana and musician Ayaan Ali Khan had pulled out of the torch relay, citing personal reasons.

Four other Indian personalities, including Indian football captain Baichung Bhutia, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, former police official Kiran Bedi and film star Soha Ali Khan, had already withdrawn from the relay for various reasons.