Olympic flame arrives in Beijing amid boycott calls

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Activist groups disrupt Monday’s flame-lighting ceremony in Greece

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The Olympic flame reached Beijing on Wednesday amid calls from foreign critics to boycott the upcoming Olympic Winter Games, which opens on February 4, 2022.

The Chinese capital’s top official, Kai Qi, secretary of the Communist Party of Beijing, received the flame at a closely guarded airport ceremony.

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Beijing successfully hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, although the event failed to create the more open political and social environment in China that many had hoped for.

Activist groups on Monday disrupted flame-lighting ceremonies in southern Greece, accusing the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of legitimizing rights abuses in China. IOC officials have said they are committed to seeing the competition grow and rights issues are not part of their remit.

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Speaking at Olympia’s ancient stadium, IOC President Thomas Bach said the Games should be “respected as a politically neutral ground.”

Activists said on Tuesday that human rights have deteriorated in China since 2008, claiming the Summer Games gave China “courage”. In those years, Communist Party leader Xi Jinping consolidated his power over almost all aspects of Chinese society.

look | IOC calls for unity amid protests

Beijing is the first city to be awarded hosting rights for both the Summer and Winter Games, largely as a result of the reluctance of European and North American cities to bid for the 2022 edition.

Meanwhile, human rights activists say persecution from China’s political critics, as well as minority groups including Tibetan Buddhists and Muslim Uighurs, and a crackdown in Hong Kong should prompt athletes and politicians to stay away from the Games.

China says spectators from outside China will not be allowed to participate in the Winter Games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and athletes must remain in a bubble to protect against the spread of the coronavirus. China has largely stamped out domestic transmission of the disease, with the first cases being detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

At the flame handover ceremony on Wednesday, Beijing’s deputy mayor Zhang Jiandong said the city was committed to holding “simple, safe and excellent games”.

Zhang said China and the IOC have collaborated to design a smaller torch relay that minimizes the number of routes and personnel.

“We insist on prioritizing public health and safety, and coordinate torch relay with epidemic control and prevention requirements,” Zhang said.

The flame will be displayed over the next few months, with a three-day relay scheduled to begin on February 2, involving about 1,200 torchbearers in Beijing, suburban Yanqing and Zhangjiakou in neighboring Hebei province, where ski jumping and other outdoor events will take place. Held.

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