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Olympic flame arrives in China

Greek actress Xanthi Georgiou in the role of ‘High Priestess’, lights the torch with the flame from the cauldron, to pass it over to Chinese organizers during the Olympic flame handover ceremony at Panathinean Stadium in Athens on Oct. 19, 2021. The flame was transported by torch relay to Beijing, China, which will host the 2022 Winter Olympics from February 4 to 20, 2022. AFP PHOTO

BEIJING:

The Olympic flame arrived in China early on Wednesday for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games, state media reported, following a ceremony in Athens overshadowed by protests over China’s human rights record.

The flame was expected to go on display at a ceremony at the Beijing Olympic Tower before going on an exhibition tour, state media and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said.

Around 2,900 athletes, representing approximately 85 National Olympic Committees, will compete in the Winter Games between February 4 and 20, 2022.

The flame was lit in Athens on Monday and transferred the following day to the organizers of the Beijing Games, but the lighting ceremony was disrupted by activists.

Protesters urged the IOC to postpone the event, arguing that China was perpetrating “genocide” against Uyghurs and Tibetans.

During the lighting ceremony in Olympia on Monday, activists unfurled a Tibetan flag and a banner that read “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 practices religious repression, torture, forced sterilization and cultural erosion through forced re-education.

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

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

There have also been calls for athletes and governments to boycott the Games.

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