Published:  02:06 AM, 19 October 2021 Last Update: 02:33 AM, 19 October 2021

Protest disrupts Beijing Games torch-lighting ceremony

Protest disrupts Beijing Games torch-lighting ceremony
Human rights activists unfurled a banner reading "No Genocide Games", waved a Tibetan flag and called for a boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics during the torch-lighting ceremony on Monday.

Two women and a man sneaked past a tight police cordon and entered the archaeological site of the ancient Greek stadium and temple where the Olympic flame is traditionally lit and which had been sealed off for days, Reuters reports.

They held up a Tibetan flag seconds after the torch was lit by an actress playing the role of high priestess at the Temple of Hera a few meters away.

The three protesters shouted for a boycott of the Games in Beijing, as invited officials, including Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, looked on. The ceremony itself was not interrupted, as had been the case for the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, and the activists, who did not reach the actual stadium or temple, were quickly led away by police.

Greece's Olympic Committee (HOC), in charge of organizing the event, said it was disappointed the ceremony had been used for political purposes. The IOC, when asked for a comment, referred to the HOC statement.

"The lighting of the Olympic flame represents 3000 years of Greek history and a commitment to peace and dialogue," the HOC said.

"While the HOC respects individual rights to freedom of expression, it is disappointing that this traditional cultural event has been used by a few individuals for other purposes."

The Chinese capital will become the first city to host both the Winter and Summer Games when it stages the Feb 4-20 event but protests and calls for boycotts over the country's human rights record have marred the run-up.

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