ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece (AP) – A sunburn at the covered birthplace of the ancient Olympics in Greece was too short-lived to ignite the emergency flame for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics during the rehearsal Sunday general.
It was the second shot of the day, after two protesters were arrested on the Acropolis in Athens trying to raise a banner to draw attention to human rights violations in China.
There has been widespread international criticism of China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the northwestern Xinjiang region, as well as its crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong and its policies towards Tibet and Taiwan.
But the International Olympic Committee moved away from the issue, saying it was not within its remit.
The question of the weather in Olympia is simpler. Greek organizers have another emergency flame lit in advance if the traditional method, using a bowl-shaped mirror to focus the sun’s rays on a torch, again fails due to clouds disrupting Monday’s ceremony. .
Sanitary measures for the second lighting of the pandemic flame at Ancient Olympia, in the southern Peloponnese region, mean that much of the normal pageantry is being curtailed. There will be no spectators on Monday, and only three runners will take part in a symbolic relay that would normally have lasted for days.
The first torchbearer, Greek alpine skier Ioannis Antoniou, said his participation in the ceremony was “one of the greatest honors an athlete can have”.
“And especially since these are the Olympics for which I am trying to qualify,” he added.
Sunday’s dress rehearsal didn’t even have the costumes, lest they get soaked in the rain. Instead, young actresses and dancers playing the role of pagan priestesses carried out their routine looking incongruous in sportswear and sandals, to keep their tunics flowing for Monday, when the weather is better.
The flame will be transported to Athens and handed over to Beijing organizers on Tuesday in the renovated old stadium where the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896.
Earlier Sunday, two activists attempted to hang a banner from the Acropolis scaffolding before being arrested. Human rights activists also staged protests at the flame-lighting ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Games and disrupted the international torch relay.
The women, Tsela Zoksang, an 18-year-old Tibetan student, and Joey Siu, a 22-year-old exiled Hong Kong activist, both American citizens, are members of the “No Beijing 2022” campaign, the New York organization Students for a Free said. Tibet.
A security guard took the banner away, but the activists remained on the scaffolding and unfurled a Tibetan flag and a smaller banner proclaiming, “Free the Hong Kong Revolution.” They also chanted slogans such as “Free Tibet”, “Boycott Beijing 2022” and “No freedom, no games”, before the police arrived and arrested them.
Protests are not allowed on the Acropolis – which has not prevented several from being organized over the years by groups ranging from communist trade unionists to football fans.
The Beijing Winter Games will take place from February 4 to 20. Only spectators from mainland China will be allowed to attend. Everyone at the Olympics – including athletes – will need to be vaccinated, or will need to spend 21 days in quarantine.
The Paralympic Games are scheduled to follow March 4-13.
Demetris Nellas in Athens and Srdjan Nedeljkovic in Ancient Olympia contributed to this report.
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