The Olympic torch relay has entered its final leg in Beijing amid tight security and to the cheers of thousands of proud Chinese. The worldwide relay was meant to drum up support for the Beijing Games but was marred by protests against China's tough rule in Tibet and human rights policy. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.
The torch relay kicked off Wednesday with a lighting ceremony at the Forbidden City in the heart of the Chinese capital.
Thousands of flag-waving Chinese cheered the relay shouting "Go China" and "Go Olympics."
China's first man in space, Yang Liwei, was the first to carry the torch. Other famous Chinese torch bearers included NBA basketball star Yao Ming and film director Zhang Yimou, who is also directing the opening and closing ceremonies for the Beijing games.
The Forbidden City is the ancient palace of China's imperial leaders and faces Tiananmen Square where in 1989 government troops killed hundreds of protesters wanting democracy.
But, these days most Chinese are looking optimistically and proudly to the future and to the Olympic Games starting Friday in Beijing.
Chen Xuan was watching the relay from Tiananmen Square.
Chen says the torch relay really inspires people's passion and patriotism. It can show the whole world the history of Chinese tradition and the hospitality of the Chinese people.
Security was tight along the route to prevent protests that marred international legs of the relay.
Police held back crowds hoping to get a glimpse and many of those lining the route were organized by Olympic sponsors-they flaunted corporate logos.
Security jogged alongside the torch bearers wearing blue tracksuits, as they did for the international legs, occasionally pushing back spectators who strayed from the crowd.
Nonetheless, two British and two American "Free Tibet" activists were detained after demonstrating near
the national stadium, where the relay will end. The group climbed lighting towers and hung two banners reading "Tibet will be free" and the Olympic slogan "One World, One Dream."
Iian Thom was one of the activists later detained. He says Beijing has used the Olympics to white-wash its human rights record in Tibet.
"I'd say that the Chinese government has politicized these games," thom said. "When the torch was run through Tibet the Party Secretary of the Tibetan region, he held the torch and said the red flag of China will forever fly over Tibet."
Activists disrupted the torch relay in London and Paris to bring attention to China's crackdown in Tibet after March anti-government protests turned violent. Others protested China's human rights abuses and cozy relations with dictators.
The relay covered six continents and Beijing had dubbed it the "Journey of Harmony," so the protests were very embarrassing to Chinese leaders. They also fed a growing nationalism among ordinary Chinese that led to anti-French protests and pro-China demonstrations.
The three-day relay in Beijing will end Friday when the torch reaches the national stadium and the games officially begin.