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  • IOC Scraps International Torch Relays


    Demonstrators protest against China's human rights violations along the Beijing torch relay route through London last year. (ATR)
    (ATR) The IOC has scrapped international Olympic torch relays following the often violent protests that marred the Beijing Games relay. But organizers of the Singapore Youth Olympic Games will be allowed to take their Olympic flame on a journey to five continents.

    The IOC Executive Board made the decision Thursday at its Sportaccord meeting in Denver.

    Olympic Games executive director Gilbert Felli told a news conference that the post-Athens 2004 stance was reaffirmed because “it was much easier for the torch to remain inside the country.”

    The international leg of the Beijing 2008 relay, which was dogged by protests against China’s human rights infractions, went ahead because planning was already under way “and we accepted to do it accordingly.”

    Vancouver 2010’s torch relay will be the biggest domestic relay in Olympic history. Sochi 2014 could ask to do an international leg, Felli said, but “we will ask them not to ask.” London 2012 Games organizers have already said they would only conduct a domestic relay around the U.K.

    “It’s better to stick to the old rules that there's no international torch relay, so we don't open the door,” Felli said. “But I don't like the word ‘ban.’”

    But the IOC’s ruling body has approved a proposal by Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games organizers for the Olympic flame for the YOG to be lit in Greece and journey to five continents.

    The flame will travel to one city each in Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania where there will be “a city celebration focused on youth and the power of the Olympic values.” A traditional torch relay will then be held in Singapore.

    IOC President Jacques Rogge’s quest to grow the appeal of the Olympics and to connect the YOG with the world’s youth appears to be the reason for backing Singapore’s plan.

    London's Metropolitan Police made a numbers of arrests after protestors tried to disrupt the passage of the Beijing torch through London. (ATR/M. Bisson)
    “As an important symbol of the Olympic movement, the Olympic flame will touch the hearts of millions of youths and inspire them to make a positive impact in their communities as it journeys through the five continents,” Ser Miang NG, IOC member from Singapore and YOG organizing committee chair, said in a statement.

    “Singapore is grateful to the IOC EB for approving our request to create this unique opportunity and experience for people around the world to connect to the first Youth Olympic Games.”

    The IOC EB meeting Thursday also received progress reports from Vancouver 2010, London 2012 and Sochi 2014, as well as organizers of the Singapore 2010 YOG and Innsbruck 2012 Youth Winter Games.

    Felli said Vancouver 2010 CEO John Furlong updated the
    EB via videoconference on the chef de mission seminar, world broadcasters’ meeting, test events, transportation plan and the VANOC reaction to the recession.

    “The organizing committee has to review every aspect and to make sure to understand the income,” Felli said. “They can make sure they can balance the budget, they are confident they will be able to do it.”

    The EB also approved Vancouver 2010 access rules for non-rights holding broadcasters, Internet guidelines for written press, and blogging rules for athletes and media.

    The IOC’s 2010 Coordination Commission makes its first Vancouver visit of 2009 next week.

    ATR coverage of the Youth Olympic Games
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    See all Sportaccord coverage here.

    With reporting from Bob Mackin in Denver.

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