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Olympic Torch Relay Held Behind Closed Doors in Indonesia


The Beijing Olympic torch relay was held in the Indonesian capital amid tight security and at an invitation only ceremony in a Jakarta stadium attended by a handpicked crowd of several thousand.The Olympic flame arrived in Australia Wednesday for the Canberra leg of the torch relay as the city prepares for major protests. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins in Jakarta has more.

The Olympic flame fluttered out after only a few seconds and had to be re-lit as Jakarta's Governor Fauzi Bowo led the torch parade before a carefully selected crowd at Jakarta's Bung Karno Stadium.

He was the first of 80 torchbearers, including athletes and television stars, to run a route circling the stadium five times.

Police earlier broke up a group of around 100 pro-Tibet protesters outside the giant sports stadium, briefly detaining eight people, including a Dutch citizen.

Security was tight with more than 3,000 police officers deployed around the massive sports complex.

Officials from the Chinese embassy helped man the stadium gates, refusing entry to many, including accredited journalists.

The event was closed to the public after the Chinese embassy insisted the torch relay be shortened and limited to 5,000 invited guests, mostly Chinese school children, Indonesian officials, and journalists.

Initially it was to take place before the public and along the bustling streets of Jakarta.

Presidential spokesman Dino Djalal told VOA the route was changed for security reasons.

"We are very happy," he said. "I mean this is an international event for peace that we have always supported. We want to make the Olympics in Beijing a big success ... there is some security issues, I mean we have been watching what has been happening and we want to make sure that things go smoothly and we think that its much more manageable if we do it with this route that we have arranged."

The worldwide journey of the Olympic flame has been dogged by anti- and pro-China demonstrations and criticism of Beijing's human rights record following China's deadly crackdown last month on anti-government riots in Tibet

Even in the carefully selected crowd at the Jakarta stadium, student Hendra, excited to see the parade, expressed mixed emotions.

"I feel happy because this is the first time the Olympic torch come to Indonesia, [but] that is the bad side of this Olympic thing - because of the invasion by China of Tibet," Hendra said.

The chairperson of the Indonesian Olympics Committee, Rita Subowo, expressed hope China would peacefully resolve its problems in Tibet.

"With full confidence that the government of People's Republic of China shall strive to find through dialogue and understanding a fair and reasonable solution to the internal conflicts that affects the Tibet region," she said.

The Olympic torch next travels to Australia.

Authorities expect as many as 10,000 pro-Tibet and pro-China demonstrators at Thursday's relay stage in Canberra. Australian authorities have put up barricades and fences to protect the route of the torch relay.

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