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Sunday, 29 March 2009

International torch relays ahead of the Olympics have been scrapped by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), reports the BBC.

It follows the controversy that surrounded the Beijing Olympic relay which was dogged by protests as the torch made its way around the world.

The 2008 relay's London leg was hit by several incidents and criticism over China's 'torch police' security staff.

Organisers of the 2012 London Olympics have already said they had no plans to take the torch outside Britain.

"We have always said the primary focus would be on a domestic torch relay whose main purpose is to excite and inspire the UK in the build-up to the games," a London 2012 spokeswoman told the BBC.

"We planned to take our lead from the IOC and are very happy with this decision as it mirrors what we were intending to do."

Instead of representing a symbol of hope and inspiration, the Olympic torch became a magnet for protesters in 2008 en route to Beijing, sparking sometimes violent protests over China's human rights record.

IOC executive director Gilbert Felli told the BBC: "After the (2004) relay in Athens, which was the first international relay, we came to the conclusion it was easier for the torch to stay inside the (host) country.

"There were difficulties with the NOCs (National Olympic Committees), and we also saw the risk with a torch relay going around the world.

"Beijing had planned an international torch relay and we accepted it. We saw in the debrief that the risk was there and the IOC decided not to do it (again).

"I think when the torch relay is inside the host country there is more control."

The IOC confirmed its decision to scrap international torch relays applies to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and onwards.

London's plans will see the torch tour the country in 2012 with the aim of 95% of the UK's population being no more than an hour away from seeing it at some point during its journey.


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