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Olympic torch tarnished in China

Every four years, the countries of the world gather to celebrate athletic achievement in an atmosphere of international cooperation. That is the goal of the Olympic Games, yet rare has been the Olympiad that is totally free of politics. Adolf Hitler used the Games as an Aryan showcase in 1936, and a string of politically motivated boycotts in the 1970s and '80s threatened to kill the Olympic movement. The Games rebounded, but in 2008 the spectre of boycott returned as protesters sought to use the Beijing Games as a political platform.

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It's been an inspiration for athletes for over 100 years, but in 2008 the Olympic torch is inspiring a different kind of passion. As the torch relay reaches London, protesters are doing their utmost to disrupt its progress and call attention to the Chinese occupation of Tibet. As the CBC's Ann McMillan reports, activists are asking world leaders to boycott the Olympics. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown won't go that far, but he's careful not to touch the torch when it stops at 10 Downing Street. 

•  "Nobody likes what goes on in Tibet. We'd like to see a solution for it, but to build your entire response to the China-Tibet problem on the back of a team of synchronized swimmers and other athletes at the Games I think is wrong and counterproductive." - Dick Pound of the International Olympic Committee, April 2008.

• In the wake of the London protests, the IOC considered cancelling the rest of the torch relay outside China. Pound said he was opposed to the international relay - the longest in Olympic history - because of the logistical problems it posed. Ultimately, the international relay continued.

• During the relay in Paris, the torch was pre-emptively extinguished and put on a bus in efforts to fend off protesters. A back-up flame, also lit from the original site in Greece, was on hand (as it is during every relay) to relight the torch.

• The torch made its way to Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet, in June 2008. CBC News Online reported that the crowd greeting it had been "pre-screened" and the city was virtually shut down for the torch's three-hour tour. Violent anti-China demonstrations three months earlier had resulted in hundreds of arrests. 

Medium: Television
Program: CBC News: Sunday
Broadcast Date: April 6, 2008
Host: Carole MacNeil
Reporter: Ann MacMillan
Duration: 3:40

Last updated: October 8, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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