Olympic torch relay was 'triumph for democracy':press
AFP[Monday, April 07, 2008 13:35]
LONDON — The Beijing Olympics torch's "journey of harmony" through London was described as anything but in Monday's newspapers, which saw it more as a victory for democratic ideals.

Police battled to keep pro-Tibet demonstrators away from the flame as it passed through London on Sunday, arresting 37 protesters who tried to disrupt the high-security tour.

There were continual scuffles along the route as each member of the relay team of renowned British athletes, pop stars and television personalities handed over the flame to the next runner. Police on bikes and running alongside the flame escorted each member of the relay.

The Sun tabloid described the torch's journey through the British capital as a "triumph for democracy."

"We are lucky to live in a country that values its citizens' right to hold lawful, peaceful public protests."

"As holders of the next Games in 2012, Britain was right to show solidarity with the Olympic movement by allowing the flame to be paraded on our soil ... The flame is not a symbol of China. It's an Olympic symbol."

In its editorial on the subject, the Daily Mail wrote: "So ends an unedifying circus as the Olympic torch completes its 'journey of harmony and peace' through the streets of London, guarded every inch of the way by riot police and a phalanx of Chinese goons, flown in specially from Beijing."

"One thing is sure. This was a world away from the propaganda triumph for which China hoped.

"The protesters -- even if some undeniably went too far -- had every right to make their feelings known."

Similarly, Simon Barnes, a commentator for The Times, wrote that "if China didn't know it before, China certainly knows it now: you don't get the Olympic Games on your own terms."

"The Olympic torch relay was a showcase all right, but not for the glory of China. Rather it was a showcase for pro-Tibet protesters and even more so for the uncontrollable, turbulent and chaotic nature of a tolerant society."

The Daily Mirror sided with pro-Tibet protesters and wrote in its editorial that "China's appalling human rights record, beating and jailing dissenters or -- as we have seen in Tibet -- killing opponents, deserved the condemnation of yesterday's demonstrators."

It called for China to acknowledge "basic democratic rights and freedoms including the right to protest, which may strike some as ironic after yesterday's scenes".

The Independent, meanwhile, questioned whether the torch had a long-term future, given how much controversy it has attracted.

"To describe it as a torch of harmony ... is simply a misnomer," the paper wrote in its editorial.

"The question, which is germane for Britain ... is what to do with the torch in future?

"Regrettably, it seems unlikely that the ceremony of carrying the flame will ever now recover its old, almost anodyne, quality. Unharmonious it has become and will remain."