/ 27 March 2009

Olympic committee scraps international torch relays

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has decided to scrap torch relays outside the host country ahead of Olympic Games in the wake of last year’s chaos in the build-up to Beijing.

The decision, which will first apply to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, was taken by the IOC executive committee meeting in Denver, Colorado.

”After the [2004] relay in Athens, which was the first international relay, we came to the conclusion it was easier for the torch to stay inside the [host] country,” IOC executive director Gilbert Felli said.

”There were difficulties with the NOCs [National Olympic Committees], and we also saw the risk with a torch relay going around the world.

”Beijing had planned an international torch relay and we accepted it. We saw in the debrief that the risk was there and the IOC decided not to do it [again].

”I think when the torch relay is inside the host country there is more control.”

The Olympics torch relay ahead of Beijing was sent on an ambitious world tour that rapidly disintegrated into chaos amid angry protests in cities such as Paris, London and San Francisco over China’s human rights record, notably in Tibet.

Organisers of the 2012 London Olympics have already said they had no plans to take the torch outside Britain.

A London 2012 spokesperson said: ”We have always said the primary focus would be on a domestic torch relay whose main purpose is to excite and inspire the [United Kingdom] in the build-up to the Games.

”We planned to take our lead from the IOC and are very happy with this decision as it mirrors what we were intending to do.” — Sapa-AFP