LONDON May 17 British police, on the eve of the
Olympic torch's arrival in the UK, warned activists not to spoil
the nationwide relay for the tens of thousands of people
expected to turn out to watch and cheer.
The flame is due to arrive at the most southwesterly point
of Britain on Friday before it embarks on an 8,000-mile,
8,000-person journey around the country.
London organisers deliberately chose a lower profile relay
than the ambitious international route for the 2008 Beijing
Olympics after violent demonstrations against China's human
rights record and its Tibet policy.
Some protesters hurled themselves into the path of the relay
in London and campaigners tried to grab the torch or put out the
Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison, national Olympic
security coordinator, said he did not think Britain would see
"I sincerely hope we are not going to see those things ... I
don't think we are going to get protests like that, I sincerely
hope we don't," he told Reuters on Thursday.
"I hope the focus of the whole country will be allowing
these 8,000 people who deserve the opportunity to carry the
torch to be allowed do it."
The relay begins on Saturday, with Britain's most successful
Olympic sailor, three-times gold medallist Ben Ainslie starting
the 70-day journey.
Environmental demonstrations against some Olympic sponsors,
including Dow Chemical, have already taken place, while a
handful of locals were arrested after protesting against park
land being used for Olympic facilities.
Britain has witnessed a number of violent protests in the
past few years as the government implements austerity measures
to combat a large budget deficit.
Allison said police were unaware of any specific requests to
protest though various intelligence leads showed that people
were "talking and thinking about it".
Detectives were watching the intelligence picture very
carefully and he urged anyone planning to protest to notify the
A team of 28 trained police officers, who will wear a
special uniform but be unarmed, will provide round-the-clock
protection for the Olympic flame and its torchbearers, with some
officers running between 15 and 25 miles a day.
The relay will go to the outer reaches of Scotland, Wales
and Northern Ireland.
"Clearly we are looking at all the threats wherever the
torch goes in the country and we're making sure we have an
appropriate policing operation in place," Allison said.
Dissident nationalists opposed to Britain's control of
Northern Ireland could pose a threat.
The threat from militant Islamists endures, seven years
after suicide bombers killed 52 people in London.
Games officials were confident the torch relay would be
"We live in a country where peaceful protest is very much a
part of what we are, thank goodness in a way, so long as that
doesn't slop over into becoming a public order issue or
endangering people that are enjoying their day," London 2012
Chairman Seb Coe said in Athens ahead of the formal handover of
"I don't sense that there is a widespread feeling this (the
relay) is something to be anything other than cherished
"My gut instinct is that people will be quite protective of
this...they won't welcome it being viewed as a vehicle for
The relay runners will include sports personalities,
celebrities and locals nominated for their good deeds, most of
whom will cover an average of 300 metres each.
The torch was lit from a flame kindled by the sun's rays in
a ceremony at ancient Olympia. It will reach the British capital
for the opening ceremony at the Olympic stadium in east London
on July 27.
(Additional reporting by Georgina Cooper in London and Alan
Baldwin in Athens, Editing by Tom Bartlett)