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Olympic Torch Passes Peacefully Through Australian Capital


Australian police arrested seven people during the Olympic torch relay in the capital Canberra. There were some scuffles between pro-Tibetan and Chinese demonstrators, but the event was largely peaceful. From Canberra, Phil Mercer reports.

The torch relay began with a traditional Aboriginal cleansing ceremony.

The event attracted thousands of pro-China demonstrators, who poured into Canberra to display their patriotism. Amid a sea of red flags and chants of "One China", they voiced their support for the Beijing Summer Olympics.

"We [are] proud of China to host this Olympic Games," said one supporter. "We are here to support sport as Olympic Games. We don't want that political thing [to] keep coming up, you know."

There was also a strong turnout from activists opposed to Chinese rule in Tibet and Beijing's human rights record. There were at times angry exchanges between opposing demonstrators.

"I just can't let this opportunity pass by to participate in the protest against human rights issues in China at the moment," said one Australian Tibet supporter. "I think it was absolutely crazy that they gave the Olympics to China in the first place. But it gives a great opportunity - a sort of once in a life opportunity to make my voice heard."

There were a few scuffles, but the day was mostly peaceful.

Security was tight. Half of Canberra's police force was on duty to protect the Olympic flame. Organizers say the event was a success because it avoided the chaotic scenes that marred the relay's journey through London, Paris and San Francisco.

The torch's next stop on its tour of the globe is Nagano, Japan.

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