Protestors disrupt flame lighting for Beijing Winter Games

ANCIENT OLYMPIA, GREECE (AP) – Three activists protesting human rights abuses broke into the archaeological site where the flame lighting ceremony for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics was being held yesterday and ran toward the Temple of Hera holding a banner.

The protesters climbed over a fence to enter the grounds and attempted to reach the area where the ceremony was being held. They were thrown to the ground by police and detained.

The flame was lit at the Greek birthplace of the ancient Olympics under heavy police security.

With the public excluded amid pandemic safety measures, and a cloudless sky over the verdant site of Ancient Olympia, the flame was ceremoniously kindled using the rays of the sun before being carried off on a mini torch relay.

Earlier, other protestors were detained by Greek police before they could reach the site. Pro-democracy protests also had broken out during the lighting ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Games.

A police officer tries to stop protesters during the lighting of the Olympic flame at Ancient Olympia site. PHOTO: AP

In his speech in the ancient stadium of Olympia, IOC President Thomas Bach stressed that the modern Games must be “respected as politically neutral ground”.

“Only this political neutrality ensures that the Olympic Games can stand above and beyond the political differences that exist in our times,” he said. “The Olympic Games cannot address all the challenges in our world. But they set an example for a world where everyone respects the same rules and one another.”

In a tightly choreographed performance shortly afterwards, a Greek actress light the Olympic flame, using a bowl-shaped mirror to focus the sun’s rays on a fuel-filled torch.