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China cancels international legs of Paralympic torch relay
DPA[Wednesday, June 25, 2008 19:46]
Beijing - China on Wednesday said it had cancelled the international legs of the Paralympic torch relay, saying it needed to focus on relief efforts following last month's devastating Sichuan earthquake. The Beijing organizing committee (BOCOG) said it had also cancelled planned legs in the Chinese cities of Chengdu, Chongqing, Tianjin and Urumqi, and "shortened and simplified" the whole programme.

The Paralympic torch relay had been scheduled to include international legs for the first time, with parades planned in the host cities of the next three winter or summer games: London, Vancouver and Sochi.

A planned leg in Hong Kong was also cancelled, BOCOG said.

The announcement came during a five-day meeting in Beijing of Chinese Paralympic officials and delegates from the International Paralympic Committee to plan the September 6-17 Paralympic Games.

BOCOG said the meeting, which began on Monday, discussed topics including the opening and closing ceremonies, transportation, spectator services, risk management, catering, the Paralympic Village and ticketing.

The changes to the Paralympic torch relay follow protests during many of the international legs of the Olympic torch relay in April.

Many of the international protesters were angered by China's military crackdown on violent anti-Chinese demonstrations in Tibetan areas in March.

Protesters also targeted China's human rights record, its refusal to hold dialogue with the Dalai Lama, and its torch relay through Tibet.

China suspended the Olympic torch relay for three days last month following the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan, which killed at least 70,000 people.

It then cut last week's torch relay in Tibet from three days to one day, but it gave no reason for the change.

Exiled Tibetan groups and their supporters accused the Chinese government of taking the Olympic torch to Tibet, including a separate leg last month to the summit of Mount Everest, to reaffirm its sovereignty over the region.
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