Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Beijing protests means global travel ban for Olympic torch

Pix: Official London 2012
Following widespread protests against China in 2008 when it hosted in Beijing the Olympic Games, countries around the world, including Gambia may not have the chance to partake in this year’s Olympic torch relay.
The organisers, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have made no plans known as to whether the torch will tour the world this time. 

The protest against china hosting the games was mainly due the country’s poor human rights record, the Asian country is ranked very low in the world by various human rights agencies. 
The Olympic torch was lit in Ancient Olympia in Greece on May 10, 2012, at ceremony described as “solemn” and an atmosphere filled with mystery and tradition, indicating the final countdown to the beginning of the 2012 summer Games to be held in London.

For a relay that will take the torch around Greece and Great Britain, on Thursday, actors wearing ancient Greek costume invoked the god - Apollo in the remains of the 2, 600-year-old Temple of Hera, using a concave mirror to harness the sun's rays and kindle a flame on the torch.

"We promise to protect the flame, to cherish its traditions and stage an uplifting torch relay of which we can be proud," the head of London organising committee, Sebastian Coe was quoted to have said. Coe vowed the event would "lift the spirits and hopes of people across Britain and across the world".

After thanks to the god Apollo, regarded as the "king of the sun and the idea of light", under the shadows of the Greek, British and Olympic flags, the torch was handed to the first relay runner, Greece's England-born open water swimming champion, Spyros Gianniotis.

Gianniotis then passed it to 19-year-old British boxer, Alexander Loukos. Loukos’s father originated from the Greek island of Lesbos and grew up in east London borough where the Olympic Stadium is situated.

“The torch ceremony is "a very big moment" for me. It is very moving. I am trembling from the emotions. It is the highest honour for an athlete to do this," the French news agency, AFP quoted Gianniotis as saying after a rehearsal at the temple.

The IOC has scheduled the week-long torch relay in Greece, to tour five major Greek archaeological sites, including the Acropolis, before it arrives at the old Olympic stadium in Athens, the site of the first modern Games in 1896.

While Britain, the 2012 Olympic Games host will wait until May 17 to receive the flame.
The torch's route in Britain starts on May 19 at the southernmost tip of England to begin a 12,875-kilometre journey that will take it through the United Kingdom including the Republic of Ireland, before it arrives at the Olympic Stadium in east London on July 27 and exposed to a worldwide television audience of billions.

The London Organising Committee revealed 7,300 people who will carry the torch, among them, a soldier wounded in Afghanistan and a 100-year-old woman.

The IOC said the torch is a reminder of the ancient Olympics, when a flame burned throughout the Games, a tradition revived in 1936 during the Olympics in Berlin, Germany.

Even if the torch is not touring the world, like it did in the past, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, in a message to Gambia, told the country “welcome”. The Gambia is far from top medal-grabbing countries at the Olympics and this year will be no different.

Realistically, Gambian businesspeople are more likely to excel at the Games than our athletes. Apparently, Cameron knew that. He said: “If you are an entrepreneur or investor, London 2012 is a chance to discover new opportunities in a country which has the fewest barriers to entrepreneurship in the world.”

Written by Modou S. Joof


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