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Olympic torch extinguished twice on Paris run
Thierry Leveque
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April 07, 2008 20:01 IST
Last Updated: April 07, 2008 23:48 IST

Security officials extinguished the Olympic torch at least twice on Monday during a chaotic relay through Paris where thousands of pro-Tibet protesters tried to block its path.

The torch's progress through Paris was regularly delayed by demonstrators protesting against China's crackdown on Tibet [Images] after it set off from the Eiffel Tower [Images]. At one point it had to be put on a bus to protect it from the crowds.

The torch then had to be extinguished because of a technical problem, a police spokesman said. A Chinese official was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying it was put out for safety reasons.

After a brief interruption the relay resumed with the torch alight, only for it to be extinguished shortly afterwards despite the fact that protesters appeared to be well away from the relay team, which was flanked by police on rollerblades.

"Boycott Chinese goods" and "Save Tibet" read some of the banners held by demonstrators.

"We are doing our best but it will take the world to put pressure on China to help bring democracy and human rights to Tibet," said Phurbu Dolker, a 21-year-old Tibetan refugee.

The scenes were reminiscent of the protests that hit the torch's passage through London [Images] on Sunday, with the build up to the Beijing [Images] Olympics [Images] rapidly becoming a public relations disaster for the Chinese organisers.

Three hours after setting out on its 28-km trip through Paris, the protesters tactics meant the relay had accumulated a delay estimated at roughly two hours.


"Security Fiasco," France [Images] 24 television said in a banner headline running on the bottom of its screen.

At least 23 people were briefly detained by police for trying to disturb the relay, a spokesman for the Free Tibet movement said.

Militants from rights group Reporters Without Borders chained themselves to the Eiffel Tower and deployed a black flag with handcuffs replacing the Olympic rings.

A member of the French Greens party had earlier been restrained by police when trying to grab the torch from the first of 80 torch bearers, former world 400 metres hurdles champion Stephane Diagana.

Escorted by security, Diagana was wearing a badge reading "For a better world".

France has deployed more than 3,000 police officers for the zig-zagging journey to the southern edge of Paris, where the torch was initially due to arrive at 1500 GMT.

Thousands of protesters waving Tibetan flags and shouting "Shame on China" tried to disrupt the torch's run through London on Sunday, the British leg of the international relay billed by Beijing as the "harmonious journey".

French human rights minister, Rama Yade, denied on Saturday that President Nicolas Sarkozy would boycott the Games' opening ceremony unless China started talks with the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama [Images], and released political prisoners.

The Olympic flame is expected to remain a magnet for anti-Chinese protests ahead of the August Games in Beijing.

The flame is due to return to Beijing on Aug. 6, two days before it will be used to light the cauldron at the Olympic opening ceremony.

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