Protest as Olympic torch is lit - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Protest as Olympic torch is lit

China's Olympic chief Liu Qi was speaking when the protester ran up behind him. China's Olympic chief Liu Qi was speaking when the protester ran up behind him.
Playing the role of High Priestess, Greek actress Maria Nafpliotou, passes on the Olympic flame. Playing the role of High Priestess, Greek actress Maria Nafpliotou, passes on the Olympic flame.

OLYMPIA, Greece (CNN) -- A lone protester managed to breach the tight security during the Olympic torch lighting ceremony in Greece Monday.

Playing the role of High Priestess, Greek actress Maria Nafpliotou, passes on the Olympic flame.

The man rushed behind the podium as China's Olympic chief was speaking.

He tried to unfurl an unidentified banner, but was quickly apprehended by security who escorted him away.

Meanwhile committee chief Liu Qi continued to make his speech in Chinese while the commotion went on behind him.

China state TV cut away from the protest and showed a prerecorded scene, preventing Chinese viewers from seeing the incident. Chinese television commentators did not mention the demonstration.

The torch was lit moments later as it began its epic began its 130-day, 137,000-kilo meters (85,000-miles) journey.

China's human rights records has been under scrutiny from the international committee in the lead up to what promises to be one of the most controversial Olympic Games.

Anti-China protests began in Tibet's main city, Lhasa, on March 10 and gradually escalated. Lhasa saw at least two days of violence and there have also been violent protests in provinces which border Tibet. Chinese officials reported the death toll at 22 from Chinese officials, while the Tibetan government said at least 99 people lost their lives.

Reporters Without Borders, a group based in France that seeks to protect journalists around the world, claimed responsibility for the protest. View map of all countries torch will visit »

The group said three members, including the group's secretary general Robert Menard, managed to get into the ceremony without being stopped with flags.

"If the Olympic flame is sacred, human rights are even more so," the group said in a statement. "We cannot let the Chinese government seize the Olympic flame, a symbol of peace, without denouncing the dramatic situation of human rights in the country."

The Olympic torch will go from the site of ancient Olympia in Greece to Beijing, China, where the 2008 summer games will begin in August.

The mammoth trip is the longest ever in Olympic history.

The flame was lit by focusing the sun's rays on a concave steel mirror at the ruins of the Temple of Hera in Olympia.

Greek actress Maria Nafpliotou, portraying the High Priestess, lit the first torch. Alexandros Nikolaidis, a Greek athlete who won a silver medal in taekwondo at the 2004 Olympics, then carried the flame for the first mile.

China's Olympic swimming gold medalist, Luo Xuejuan, took the flame from Nikolaidis. Another 603 bearers will run the torch through Greece, culminating in Athens on March 30, where the torch will be handed over to China for a flight to Beijing.

After a ceremonial arrival in Beijing, the flame will move around the world through April. At the beginning of May, it begins a three-month trek through at least 111 Chinese cities in more than 30 provinces and regions.

A second flame will attempt a side trip sometime in May -- depending on weather conditions -- to the top of Mt. Everest, the world's highest peak, along the Tibet-Nepal border.

The most controversial leg of the torch relay is planned for June, when it is scheduled to be carried through Tibet and three neighboring provinces where violent unrest broke out this month.

Olympic officials insisted last week that the relay in these areas will proceed as planned.

"All the preparations for the torch relay in Tibet, Xinjiang, Qinghai and Gansu are proceeding very well," Beijing Olympics organizer Jiang Xiaoyu said.

The flame is set to arrive in Beijing on August 6, where it will be paraded around the city until entering the stadium for the Olympics opening ceremony on August 8.

While much of the trip will be aboard a chartered jet, tens of thousands of torchbearers -- 19,400 in China alone -- will carry the flame on foot through 23 cities on five continents and then throughout China.

A second flame will attempt a side trip sometime in May -- depending on weather conditions -- to the top of Mt. Everest, the world's highest peak, along the Tibet-Nepal border.

The most controversial leg of the torch relay is planned for June, when it is scheduled to be carried through Tibet and three neighboring provinces where violent unrest broke out this month.

Olympic officials insisted last week that the relay in these areas will proceed as planned.

"All the preparations for the torch relay in Tibet, Xinjiang, Qinghai and Gansu are proceeding very well," Beijing Olympics organizer Jiang Xiaoyu said.

The flame is set to arrive in Beijing on August 6, where it will be paraded around the city until entering the stadium for the Olympics opening ceremony on August 8.

Posted by LS

CBS and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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