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Rio Olympics 2016 - 10. April 2008.

Australia bans Beijing flame attendants


APRIL 7 - AS THE recriminations from London's torch relay begin, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has banned Chinese security guards from escorting the Olympic torch when it visits Canberra later this month.

A phalanx of Chinese security officials dressed in blue and white Beijing Olympic tracksuits surrounded various torch bearers yesterday as they carried the torch on a chaotic run through London yesterday.

Protesters angry about China's treatment of Tibet disrupted the torch relay several times, with the Chinese security guards and local police struggling to keep them at bay.

At least 35 protesters were arrested, which Chinese officials branding the action "vile behaviour".

Rudd said Australia was more than capable of protecting the torch and there would be no need for China to send its own security team to guard it in Canberra.

"As the attorney-general said in Australia some weeks ago, we will not be having Chinese security forces or Chinese security services providing security for the torch when it is in Australia," Rudd told reporters during a joint press conference at 10 Downing Street with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown today.

"We, Australia, are providing that security.

"What Olympic officials the Chinese bring to Canberra is a matter for them but on the security front, we will be providing that."

Commander Bob Broadhurst, the Metropolitan Police officer in charge of the route in London, said he had beens surprised by the scale of the protests in London but was satisfied with how the operation had gone.

He said: "What I never expected was the level of determination to track the torch from Wembley to Greenwich."

"This was not planned.

"It was very spontaneous."

Chinese officials claimed the Beijing security guards, formally known as "flame attendants", did not try to influence how the route was policed by the Met but Broadhurst admitted that the major decisions about whether the torch relay continued were down to BOCOG, the organising committee for the 2008 Games.

He said: "My log from yesterday is full of decisions where BOCOG had made the call, not us.

"None of those decisions were made by us."

Tory Metropolitan Police Authority member Richard Barnes called for a urgent review over yesterday's events.

He said: "It all seemed to be a shambles.

"With 2,000 officers on the route keeping protesters at bay and somebody grabs the torch, it seems the result did not match up to the planning.

"Senior police in charged warned us that people trying to get to the torch will be stopped, but they were not.

"There has to be a failure somewhere."

Commander Jo Kaye of the Metropolitan Police said "This was always going to be an interesting challenge, but it was also a public event.

"We needed a balance between this and total security.

"We knew that people wanted to try ad-hoc protests and that was always part of the policing plan to be prepared for that.

"As we clearly stated in advance of this event - we would facilitate lawful protest, which we have, but where people attempted to breach the safety, security and safe passage of the torchbearer and convoy, we would take appropriate and proportionate action.

"This we have done."

Rudd's comments, meanwhile, came as Australia considered shortening the torch relay route in Canberra, amid security fears.

There were also problems with demonstrators when the torch arrived in Paris today.

Changing the route was discussed amongst organisers and the Australian Federal Police (AFP), and not at the request of Chinese officials, a spokeswoman for ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope said.

She said: "It's a normal part of the process to try to ensure the torch relay, as it makes its way to through Canberra, is secure."

Any reconfiguration would ensure federal police were able to provide maximum security for the 80 Australian torchbearers.

"The Government (also) takes very seriously," said Canberra relay task force chairman Ted Quinlan.

But he admitted he feared the London protests could spark a "rolling and growing movement" where activists seek to outdo each other in an effort to steal the limelight.

Quinlan said: "My concern is that by the time it gets here, there have been a whole series of protests and that's really all everybody is expecting for the day.

"Of course, we're observing what's happening world-wide day by day and making appropriate plans."

Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates, in Beijing for a three-day meeting of National Olympic Committee heads, said security for the torch was the responsibility of the AFP.

He said: "We hope that the protests are peaceful, but we have every confidence in the AFP to ensure the safe journey of the torch.

ACT Tibetan community president Tsering Deki said her group was planning to protest in Canberra when the torch arrives on April 24, but did not support the violent action seen in London.

She said: "We will be protesting and we plan to be loud, but peaceful."

Despite calls for him to snub the Chinese over the country's crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tibet, Brown welcomed the torch when it arrived at Downing Street.

However, he did not hold or touch it as it was handed between Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis and paralympian Ali Jawad.

Asked by reporters if he would hold the torch when it arrives in Canberra, Rudd said he would be at a function in Sydney while Sports Minister Kate Ellis officiates at the Olympic event.

Rudd said: "Britain's circumstances are obviously somewhat different.

"They are hosting the next Olympics and I think that places their circumstances in a somewhat different context to perhaps a number of other participant states."

Both he and Brown repeated their calls today for more dialogue between supporters of Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dali Lama, and Chinese authorities and downplayed calls for countries to boycott the Games.

Rudd said: "Our position, as with the British government and others, is that there needs to be a renewed process of dialogue between the Dali's representatives and reps of the Chinese Government.

"It's my general view that these things at the level of the Olympics, don't work."

Meanwhile, in London, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Barnet and Camden in the London Assembly elections will fight the rest of his campaign on crutches after he was trampled by a police horse during yesterday's protest in Whitehall.

Nicholas Russell was protesting on behalf of Tibet when a police horse stamped on his foot and broke it.

Russell said: "I guess it's my fault for not moving fast enough and one of the horses trod on my foot.

"A hairline fracture is trivial compared to what Tibetans have suffered over recent weeks.

"Generally the police were very civil.

"Though they were clearly briefed to protect the Chinese and push back the British protesters, which seems odd.

"The most depressing aspect of the day for me was the Labour Government's continuing preference for the authoritarian argument, not the liberal one."

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