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Olympic Torch Carried through Argentine Capital


Argentine athletes and celebrities have carried the Olympic torch through downtown Buenos Aires, past hundreds of China supporters and protesters. VOA's Brian Wagner has this report from Miami.

The Olympic torch made its only appearance in Latin America on Friday, during a 13-kilometer parade through the Argentine capital.

Officials said the torch was held in a secret location overnight, after arriving from San Francisco where it was shown earlier this week.

Chinese and Argentine guards formed a tight security cordon for the torch relay, amid concerns that protesters would seek to extinguish the flame. During the relay, guards blocked a water balloon thrown from the crowd.

Critics of the Beijing government marched to protest Chinese rule in Tibet, while China supporters waved banners and cheered as the torch passed.

During a ceremony to light the torch, Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri thanked Chinese Olympic organizers for bringing the ceremony to the city.

He said the Olympics are a moment for brotherhood and shared experience, which helps energize the community.

Some 80 athletes and celebrities were chosen to carry the flame along a route that included the presidential palace and other popular areas in Buenos Aires. A team of rowers briefly carried it by boat along a downtown canal.

Argentine officials said 1,200 police officers and about 3,000 city employees and volunteers helped to protect the torch relay.

The Olympic flame is to travel next to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, as part of what organizers say will be a 137,000-kilometer journey before the start of the Beijing games on August 8.