Despite massive security, three protesters disrupted events at the Olympic torch lighting ceremony in Greece on Monday. The men ran onto the field of an ancient stadium to unfurl a banner calling for a boycott to the Beijing Summer Games. Nathan Morley in Nicosia has this report for VOA.
It all started so well. The cast and crew had been rehearsing for months for this showpiece day in Greece, and a live telecast of the event had millions of people watching from around the world.
Greek officials were confident that a tight security cordon around the event could not be breached, but shortly after the ceremony began, the problem began.
Three members of the Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders unfurled a flag at the ceremony and demanded a boycott of the Beijing Games. Their protest disrupted a speech given by China's Olympic organizing committee chief, Liu Qi.
Television coverage in Greece and China was suddenly switched to scenic shots of the landscape.
The demonstration shook up the crowd of spectators and Olympic officials.
A police official later confirmed to state TV that they had detained the three French protesters.
The head of the International Olympic Committee Jack Rogge again defended the decision to hold the games in Beijing.
"The Beijing Games will not only be a moment of sporting excellence, but also an opportunity for the people of China and the world to learn, discover and respect each other," said Rogge.
As if the demonstration at the stadium were not enough for organizers, once the torch left Olympia and proceeded through the town, a Tibetan woman lay in the street covered in red paint-symbolizing blood. A scuffle between police and protesters followed.
Activists are angry about China's plans to take the torch through Tibet and even to the top of Mount Everest along the border between Tibet and Nepal.
China has vowed there will be strict security to protect the torch relay, but protest groups have said they will protest on the entire route -- right up to Beijing.