Hi guest, Register | Login | Contact Us
Welcome to Phayul.com - Our News Your Views
Mon 22, Apr 2019 07:55 PM (IST)
Search:     powered by Google
 MENU
Home
News
Photo News
Opinions
Statements &
Press Releases

Book Reviews
Movie Reviews
Interviews
Travels
Health
Obituaries
News Discussions
News Archives
Download photos from Tibet
 Latest Stories
China’s criminal law being abused to persecute Tibetans and Buddhists: European Parliament
China ranked 176th in World Press Freedom Index
TWA to mark Panchen Lama’s 30th Birthday with Pan India peace march
Tibetan student detained for essay on lack of jobs in occupied Tibet
200 MPs ask India to confer Bharat Ratna upon His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Former Tibetan political prisoner succumbs to injuries sustained in prison
Dalai Lama undergoes follow up check-up, back to normal health
Nitish Kumar echoes Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s call for conferment of Bharat Ratna upon Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama thanks well-wishers after recovery
Cancer specialist Tibetan physician ends practice due to old age
 Latest Photo News
More than a thousand Tibetans, Uyghurs and supporters protest in Paris to denounce China's repression in Tibet. Xi Jinping will be on an official visit to France from Monday. Under a canopy of flags with snow lions, protesters marched from the Trocadero Human Rights Square to the Peace Wall at the other end of the Champ de Mars. 25 March 2019. Phayul photo/Norbu Wangyal
His Holiness the Dalai Lama arrives at Theckchen Choeling temple on the second day of his teachings, McLeod Ganj, Feb. 20, 2019 Phayul Photo: Kunsang Gashon
Winner of the Miss Himalaya Pageant 2018 Ritika Sharma, First Runner-up Palak Sharma and Second-Runner-up Ashima Sharma wave to the audience during the Miss Himalaya Pageant 2018 in McLeod Ganj, India, on 6 October 2018, Photo: L. Wangyal
more photos »
Advertisement
Who are the men in blue? Chinese paramilitary team protects Olympic flame
AP[Wednesday, April 09, 2008 03:01]
By Anita Chang

BEIJING, April 6 - They wear bright blue tracksuits and Beijing Olympic organizers call them "flame attendants." But a military bearing hints at their true pedigree: paramilitary police sent by Beijing to guard the Olympic flame during its journey around the world.

Torchbearers have criticized the security detail for aggressive behaviour, and a top London Olympics official simply called them "thugs."

"They were barking orders at me, like 'Run! Stop! This! That!' and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, who are these people?"' former television host Konnie Huq told British Broadcasting Corp. radio about her encounter with the men in blue during London's leg of the relay Sunday.

So far, the "29th Olympic Games Torch Relay Flame Protection Unit" - as the squad is officially known - has kept the flame from being seized during chaotic, protest-filled runs through Paris and London.

Its mettle is likely to be further tested Wednesday in San Francisco, where activists protesting China's crackdown in Tibet and its human rights record have promised widespread demonstrations.

Officially, Beijing has said only that the unit's mission was to guard the flame, in keeping with practices of past Olympic games.

Members were picked from special police units of the People's Armed Police, China's internal security force. The requirements for the job: to be "tall, handsome, mighty, in exceptional physical condition similar to that of professional athletes," the state-run China News Service said.

Special police units are the top tier of the paramilitary corps, chosen for skills in martial arts, marksmanship and hand-to-hand combat, according to sinodefense.com, a British-based website specializing in Chinese military affairs.

The training for the Olympic flame detail included daily mountain runs of at least 10 kilometres and lessons in protocol. They also learned basic commands such as "go," "step back," "speed up" and "slow down" in English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese, the China News Service said.

But as the torch made a stormy procession through London and Paris, the military training rather than the protocol seemed to come to the fore.

At least one torchbearer said she clashed with the squad, and others have criticized their heavy-handed tactics.

Yolaine De La Bigne, a French environmental journalist who was a torchbearer in Paris, told The Associated Press she tried to wear a headband with a Tibetan flag, but the Chinese agents ripped it away from her.

"It was seen and then, after four seconds, all the Chinese security pounced on me. There were at least five or six (of them). They started to get angry" and shouted "No! No! No!" in English, she said.

De La Bigne tried to push several agents away as they grabbed her arm. She said two French athletes who are martial arts experts tried to help her and clashed briefly with the security detail.

The chairman of the London 2012 Games, Sebastian Coe, was even more blunt.

"They tried to push me out of the way three times. They are horrible. They did not speak English. They were thugs," Coe, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was quoted as saying in British media. A spokeswoman for the London 2012 Olympics committee confirmed that Coe was quoted accurately, but added that he thought he was making private comments.

The Olympic flame wasn't part of the ancient games, and the torch relay didn't become a fixture in the modern Olympics until the 1936 Berlin Games, when it was part of the Nazi pageantry that promoted Hitler's beliefs of Aryan supremacy in the world of sports.

That first 12-day relay from Ancient Olympia to Berlin traversed Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and other countries that would later be invaded by the Nazis. And the torch was borne into the Reichstaddion by a blond, blue-eyed runner chosen for his Aryan features.

In years since, security details have been sent out by Olympic hosts to accompany the torch, but until now, they never faced such protests.

For the Sydney games in 2000, at least one uniformed guard followed the torch, and more security was added after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. Security officials escorted the flame throughout the 2004 relay for the Athens games, though in small numbers and amid a festive atmosphere.

For Beijing's relay, protesters disrupted the ceremony at Ancient Olympia when the Olympic flame was lit two weeks ago. In London, protesters nearly grabbed the torch, and in Paris, the men in blue extinguished its flame and hustled it to the safety of nearby buses, amid rowdy protests that prompted officials to call off the last third of the relay.

In China, paramilitary police are responsible for a wide range of security tasks from fighting forest fires to quelling civil unrest. After deadly riots and protests broke out in Tibet last month, detachments mobilized to reassert government control.

The Olympics squad is composed of two groups: 30 members covering the torch route outside China, and 40 handling the relay inside China, according to China News Service.

The guards work around-the-clock shifts to ensure the Olympic flame never goes out. News photos showed them on an Air China charter jet staring at two lanterns containing the flame.

In London, the guards stopped a protester from wrenching the torch from the hands of Huq, the former TV host, but she was unsure who they were and what their role was.

"The men in blue perplexed everyone," she said. "Nobody actually seemed to know who they were officially or what their title was. They were kind of very robotic, very full on."

Officials with the Beijing Olympic organizing committee and the government had only praise for the flame attendants.

"I think our protection team members have been following regulations and properly carrying out their flame protection work," said an official in the Olympic torch relay centre in Beijing, who gave only his surname, Liu, because he is not an official spokesman.

Zhao Shangsen, a spokesman at the Chinese Embassy in London, said it is "routine practice" for flame attendants to accompany the torch as it travels around the world.

"Their job is to protect the torch," he said.
Print Send Bookmark and Share
 Related Stories
Protests cut short Paris Olympic torch relay: police
Officials Extinguish Olympic Torch Twice
Olympic torch relay was 'triumph for democracy':press
Olympic Torch Extinguished Amid Protests
Clashes along Olympic torch route
Olympic torch relay overshadowed by protests
Pro-Tibet protesters disrupt Olympic flame ceremony
IOC urged to scrap Tibet torch relay
Thai Olympic torchbearer withdraws in protest over China's crackdown in Tibet
  Readers' Comments »
Be the first to comment on this article

 Other Stories
Demonstrators gather before torch relay
Tibet activists gather at Chinese consulate in Toronto
Bush Urges China to Meet With Dalai Lama
Tibetan exiles’ “return march’ reaches New Delhi
Hunger Strike and Candle Light Vigil in Guwahati
Chinese police fire on Tibetan protesters two days after killing eight Tibetans in Sichuan province
Gere joins San Francisco torch protests, urges nonviolence
Around 70 monks of Ramoche Temple detained in midnight raid, whereabouts still unknown
Olympic chiefs remove mention of Tibet in statement supporting Beijing Games
Tortured monk released in unstable mental condition
The Torch and Freedom
Tibetan monks protest in front of foreign reporters: witness
Small group walks in Reno to support Tibet
Reports: Hong Kong authorities may shorten Olympic torch route
Olympic Games torch rushed into hiding
Tibetan task force seeks talks with Beijing
Flame attendants revealed as Chinese ‘paramilitaries’
China Limiting Visas in Hong Kong
Australian PM says significant rights problems in Tibet
Protests in San Francisco before Olympic torch run
The world should stand beside Tibet
Who are the men in blue? Chinese paramilitary team protects Olympic flame
French officials slam Chinese torch security
Tibetan protesters light freedom torch
Protests could hurt Olympic sponsors
Bigger role for Karmapa with US visit?
Chinese tracksuited torch guards came from unit responsible for killings in Tibet
Advertisement
Advertisement
Photo Galleries
Advertisement
Phayul.com does not endorse the advertisements placed on the site. It does not have any control over the google ads. Please send the URL of the ads if found objectionable to editor@phayul.com
Copyright © 2004-2019 Phayul.com   feedback | advertise | contact us
Powered by Lateng Online
Advertisement