Beijing pledges more security for torch relay

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 April, 2008, 12:00am

Beijing yesterday reassured anxious Olympic chiefs that security around the remainder of the beleaguered torch relay would be beefed up.

As pro-Tibet protesters and other human rights groups prepared to greet the torch in Argentina, the head of the Beijing organising committee (Bocog), Liu Qi , met International Olympic Committee officials to ease rising anxieties.

He told them China was doing all it could to prevent a repeat of the chaotic scenes from San Francisco, Paris and London, coupled with Tibetan riots in the mainland, which led IOC president Jacques Rogge to describe the situation as a 'crisis'.

'The organising committee today did underline to us that they have taken steps to make sure any risk, if there is any, is mitigated and we're very confident and comfortable with that,' IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said.

'It was just a question of reassuring the executive board that they have everything under control.'

When asked when the 'crisis' would end, Dr Rogge answered: 'I have no crystal ball, but I am optimistic that the Games will be a success.'

He attempted to keep his final hours in Beijing apolitical, but he was quizzed about the non-sporting issues that have engulfed the programme.

'The IOC and national Olympics committees discuss security each time we are in Beijing,' Dr Rogge said in response to reports that the Ministry of Public Security had apprehended two terrorist groups in Xinjiang that were planning attacks on the Games.

'We have received assurances from Bocog and other authorities that there will be the necessary security,' he added.

Dr Rogge said the IOC was pressing China for greater media freedom, and on moral obligations as the Games' host to improve human rights. The Olympics had often attracted calls for boycotts and protests, he said.

'No one is attacking the Olympic Games. Some are using the Games,' he said. Dignitaries who snubbed the event would neither harm the Olympic movement nor stop these Games being a success, Dr Rogge added.

'There will be no boycott on the sporting side. Public opinion around the world does not want a boycott ... because they know it affects only athletes, who are innocent,' he said.