Torch Relay In Indonesia on Grim Trip
From Reuters – The Olympic torch was paraded through a heavily guarded stadium in Jakarta on Tuesday after police stopped about 100 anti-China protesters from disrupting the latest leg of the torch’s fraught journey around the world.
Indonesian badminton star and Olympic gold medalist Taufik Hidayat lit a cauldron in front of a cheering crowd as about 2,500 policemen and 1,000 military guarded the relay, which has been a magnet for anti-China protests in Europe and the Americas following Beijing’s crackdown last month on protests in Tibet.
About 80 athletes, officials, and television and film stars took part in the 7-km (4.3 mile) relay. Earlier in the day, there was a 30-minute stand-off between police and protesters outside the main gate of Bung Karno Stadium, named after Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno.
“I’m very proud to be part of this. I hope I can win a gold medal like four years ago” said Hidayat after lighting the cauldron.
The relay had originally been due to pass through large stretches of the bustling city, but sports officials later said the route would be restricted to the vicinity of Bung Karno Stadium.
“I want to see the parade but the police wouldn’t allow me in. Olympic events should be for everybody to see and should not be exclusive,” Myrna Chandra, a 21-year old student, told Reuters.
About 5,000 guests and accredited members of the media had been invited to watch the relay inside the stadium complex.
“I wanted everybody to see but they (the Chinese organizers) were very fearful,” Sports and Youth Minister Adhyaksa Dault told Reuters. “There’s nothing we could do because we are not the organizers.”
China had hoped the torch’s journey would be a symbol of unity in the run-up to the Beijing Games, but the torch has drawn anti-China protests, as well as pro-China demonstrations, many involving Chinese studying overseas.
The protesters in Jakarta, grouped under the Indonesian Society for a Free Tibet, shouted “Free Tibet!” and held up banners reading “Olympics and crimes against humanity cannot co-exist.”
Police arrested a Dutch citizen taking part in the protest after he failed to show his passport, said local deputy police chief Herri Wibowo.
Seven other protesters were briefly detained but released after the crowd agree to disperse, said protest leader Muhammad Gatot.
“It’s a shame that the Indonesian government is being cowed by China,” he said.
On Monday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy conveyed a message of sympathy to Jin Jing, a wheelchair-bound Chinese torch bearer who were roughed up by protesters on the Paris leg of the torch.
“We hope that Sarkozy and the French government will adopt a just stance on the important issues of Tibet and the Olympics,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters in Beijing on Tuesday.
Rita Subowo, chairwoman of the Indonesian Olympics Committee, urged Indonesians to help make this year’s Olympics a success.
“We should not mix sports with politics, race or religion. We must defend the rights of athletes to compete in the Olympics,” she told reporters on Monday.
The flame travels next to the Australian capital, where organizers said they were re-routing the torch relay from the heart of the capital amid fears of clashes between pro-China and pro-Tibet demonstrators.
Security concerns have also prompted changes to the torch route in Japan and caused sponsors to pull out of a motorcade for Saturday’s relay in Nagano City.