Beijing Winter Games flame lit at Olympia amid protests

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The Beijing 2022 Olympics flame was lit at Greece’s ancient Olympia on Monday, just over 100 days before the start of the Games in February, as a handful of Tibetan protesters attempted to protest inside the ancient site.

The Chinese capital will become the first city to host both the Winter and Summer Games when it stages the February 4-20 event.

With the public excluded amid pandemic safety measures, and a cloudless sky over the verdant site of Ancient Olympia, the flame was ceremoniously kindled using the rays of the sun before being carried off on a mini torch relay.

Greek actress Xanthi Georgiou, playing the role of the High Priestess, hands an olive branch to the first torch bearer, Greek alpine ski racer, Ioannis Antoniou. Photo: AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris.

Three human rights activists entered the site of the ancient Greek stadium and temple where the flame for the Olympic Games is traditionally lit, despite a strong police presence, and attempted to unfurl banners just after the torch was lit. They were stopped by security and led away.

Four other protesters had been detained by police outside the stadium an hour before the ceremony.

Rights groups and US lawmakers have called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the Games and relocate the event unless China ends what the United States deems ongoing genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups.

But despite widespread international criticism of China’s human rights record, the International Olympic Committee has shied away from the issue, saying it falls outside its remit.

In his speech during the ceremony, IOC President Thomas Bach stressed that the modern Games must be “respected as politically neutral ground.”

The Olympic flame will now be taken to Athens and handed over to Beijing organisers on Tuesday at the renovated stadium where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896.

Source: AP News.

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