POSTED: March 26th 2009
NewsUpdate

Torch relay must stay home

Peaceful start: Sir Roger Bannister with the Olympic torch before the fated run into London / Fotosports.com
Peaceful start: Sir Roger Bannister with the Olympic torch before the fated run into London / Fotosports.com

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

DENVER: The contentious international Olympic torch relay is dead and buried.

London 2012 organisers had already decided that the promotional value of the pre-Games celebrity dash through other capitals and countries was far outweighed by the security problems.

Before the Beijing Olympics last year the torch relay legs in both London and Paris were disrupted by a steady stream of political protesters. Further controversy was aroused by the presence of a swarm of track-suited Chinese security officials accompanying the torch along its embattled route.

London officials wasted little time after the Beijing Games in deciding that they did not want a repeat and would run the torch only domestically. Confirmation that they were merely echoing International Olympic Committee policy came today after an executive board meeting during the Sportaccord conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Denver.

In fact, the IOC had been partly to blame for the fiasco in the first place in not clarifying the wording of its own guidelines after the initial international torch relay ahead of the Athens Games in 2004.

'Operational difficulties'

Gilbert Felli, the Olympic Games executive director, said: “The torch relay always used to be inside a country and when Athens asked if it could go ‘outside’ we said Yes. After Athens we came to the conclusion that it was easier for the torch to stay inside a host country - because we had operational difficulties and we did see a risk if the torch relay went around the world.

“However, Beijing had already started planning an international relay so the IOC allowed it go ahead. But the IOC saw the risk and that is why, now, IOC has decided not to do it at all. It’s just that the wording was not very clear before but now we are saying: ‘No.’ Security is easier in the Games’ organising country.”

Games guidelines are being amended too late to govern the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi but, even if organisers sought permission, it would not be granted. Felli added: “Sochi could ask but now, in effect, we have asked them not to ask.”

The decision was greeted with derision by David Wallechinsky, vice-president of the International Society of Olympic Historians, who created the plan for the international torch relay.

He said: "This is a foolish decision on the part of the IOC.  They completely misread the reason for the protests relating to the 2008 torch relay.  These were not protests against the IOC or against the Olympics; they were protests against the human rights violations of the Chinese Communist Party, one of the most repressive governments in the world.

"The IOC made a terrible decision by turning the Olympics over to the Chinese Communist Party and they are trying to cover up their humiliating blunder by blaming the concept of an international torch relay instead."


Keywords · IOC · Olympic Games · 2012 · torch · Felli


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