Greece hands over Olympic flame to Beijing 2022 hosts

By: AFP      Published: 06:19 PM, 19 Oct, 2021
Olympic flame lit for 2022 Beijing Winter Games
Vice President of the Chinese Olympic Committee and IOC member Yu Zaiqing (R) holds the torch with the Olympic Flame, next to President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee and IOC member Spyros Capralos (L), during the handover ceremony of the Olympic Flame for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at Panathinean stadium in Athens.

Greece on Tuesday handed over the Olympic flame to organisers of the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, a day after the lighting ceremony was disrupted by activists calling for the event to be postponed.

Hellenic Olympic Committee chief Spyros Kapralos gave the Olympic torch to the vice-president of Beijing 2022 and vice-president of the Chinese Olympic Committee Yu Zaiqing at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, where the ancient Games were revived in 1896.

"The Olympic flame will travel to the Great Wall and across other parts of China, bringing with it the light of peace and friendship," Yu said.

He said China vowed to deliver "a streamlined, safe and splendid Games".

Actresses dressed as ancient Greek priestesses had earlier lit a cauldron with the Olympic flame, after China's Turin 2006 and Vancouver 2010 freestyle ski silver medallist Li Nina ran a lap with the torch in the second-century AD stadium.

The ceremony was held without spectators, with mainly officials and media in attendance.

The International Olympic Committee has said the flame will go on display to the public in Beijing before setting off on an exhibition tour.

Earlier Tuesday, activists against the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics urged the IOC to postpone the event, arguing that China was perpetrating "genocide" against Uyghurs and Tibetans.

"This is sports-washing. There are no legitimate reasons to host the Games during a genocide," Zumretay Arkin, advocacy manager of the World Uyghur Congress, told a news conference in the Greek capital.

During the lighting ceremony in Olympia on Monday, the activists unfurled a Tibetan flag and a banner that said "no genocide" at the Games. A similar protest was held at the Acropolis in Athens on Sunday.

Human rights campaigners and exiles say the Chinese central government practises religious repression, torture, forced sterilisation and cultural erosion through forced re-education.

Campaigners believe that at least one million Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim minorities are incarcerated in camps in Xinjiang.

After initially denying the existence of the Xinjiang camps, China later defended them as vocational training centres aimed at reducing the appeal of Islamic extremism.