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London interrupts torch run

Despite massive police bandobust, protesters repeatedly clash with police and mar the Olympic torch parade in London on Sunday, reports Vijay Dutt. Also see: Tibet UnrestCounterpoint | Vir SanghviColumn | Karan Thapar

world Updated: Apr 07, 2008 04:12 IST
Vijay Dutt

The massive security arrangements with over 2,000 police officers being deployed across the 50 km route of the Olympics torch parade in Britain could not prevent Tibetan protesters from interrupting it. The police changed the scheduled route twice without announcing the changes, but the protesters found out well in time. The trouble started immediately after the parade began at 10.10 am from Wembley in north London. Demonstrators tried to snatch the torch from former Blue Peter host Konnie Huq. So strong was the pro Tibet sentiment that Huq later said defensively, “I always said my taking part in the procession doesn’t mean I condone China record on human rights in any way.”

After an unpublicised change to the route, the Chinese ambassador carried the torch through Chinatown, amid fears her presence could be a flashpoint. There were chaotic scenes as former Olympic pentathlon gold medallist Denise Lewis took the flame to Downing Street. Police said there were about 500 people in Whitehall and about 2,000 gathered near the British Museum. At 10 Downing Street Gordon Brown greeted the torch bearers despite coming under pressure to boycott the parade.

After the London leg, the flame headed for Paris.