Olympic torch to safely completes Nagano route
The Beijing Olympic torch travelled its 18.7-kilometre route through the central Japanese city of Nagano on Saturday, without any major disruptions, according to the dpa.
Hundreds of pro-China demonstrators lined the route, while others protested the country's response to pro-independence demonstrations in Tibet. Three people were arrested and one detained for protesting.
The flame, which was transported from Australia's Canberra, reached its goal Saturday afternoon in cold rain amidst about 1,000 protestors and supporters waving Chinese and Tibetan national flags.
An Olympic marathon runner, Mizuki Noguchi, safely carried the flame with hopes of peaceful procession toward the Beijing Olympics in August. She said she also hoped to win another gold medal.
Despite the handful of arrests, the torch was smoothly passed among 80 runners through the host city of the 1998 Winter Olympics.
Two Chinese flame attendants and nearly 100 police officers accompanied the runner through the town to shield the procession from demonstrations like those against China's human rights record that have interrupted relays in other cities.
However, there were smaller intermediate cases, in which five men were arrested and four other men in smaller wrangles were slightly injured.
Of the five people arrested, one man holding a Tibetan flag was arrested after breaking into the relay route, and police detained another who tried to rush toward the torch near Nagano station. The third arrest was made when a man threw an egg at a runner. Four people were slightly injured in minor scuffles.
As a runner passed by the Nagano station, a few plastic bottles were thrown into the route and police accompanying the runner raised their shields.
At a major intersection near the station, large crowds of pro- Tibet and Chinese residents of Japan faced off as they screamed "Free Tibet" and "One China" waving their flags to the runner.
A Nagano citizen who ran the relay was disappointed to see how an otherwise a cheerful event was turned into a political stage.
The torch was lit without any cheers or applause because members of the public were not allowed into the opening ceremony venue.
A few hundred Chinese residents filled the streets across from the vacant lot next to a construction site where the flame was lit Saturday morning. They waved red national flags and cheered "One China."
In the strong wind, the flame was blown out, but the torch was successfully lit on the second try.
Along with the demonstrators, Japanese right-wing activists also entered the city to protest China.
One Chinese supporter said that politics and the Olympic Games are different, referring to the China's crackdown on the Tibetan people.
"The Olympics is supposed to promote peace and friendship," the man with a Chinese national flag said.