The Olympic Torch has been lit -- beginning the longest torch relay in the history of the Olympic Games. But the "Journey of Harmony", as the torch relay has been called, is already being overshadowed by unrest in Tibet.
Olympic torch is lit in Greece -- it will travel 97,000 km to Beijing
It all looked so simple a year ago when the route of the Beijing Olympics torch relay was revealed at a bombastic ceremony last April. The torch would travel 97,000 kilometres across five continents and it would be carried through China for 97 days.
Liu Qi from the Chinese Olympic Committee promised the Olympic torch relay would be spectacular at the ceremony: "The Torch Relay of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games has set its theme as the 'Journey of Harmony' and the slogan 'Light the Passion, Share the Dream'."
But as the "Journey of Harmony" begins, shadows have already been cast by unrest in Tibet, as well as other human rights issues. The Chinese organisers are gearing up for protests in all of the 19 cities the torch will travel through before arriving in China.
Against the Olympic spirit
Jiang Xiaoyue from the Beijing Organisation Committee has expressed his displeasure:
"These activities are not in accordance with the Olympic Charter and with all the people in the world who are behind the Olympic movement."
In May, the torch will begin its journey through all of mainland China's 31 provinces -- including Tibet.
"The situation in Lhasa has calmed down. The torch relay will go as planned," Jiang has assured.
Twice in Tibet
The torch is supposed to go to Tibet twice. At the beginning of May, climbers are supposed to take it up to the highest peak in the world, Mount Everest -- one of the relay's highlights. It is planned that the torch will go back to Lhasa in June.
Human rights organisations have demanded a tough line be taken against Beijing -- some have even called for a boycott of the August games.
In the light of recent events in Tibet, the Olympic torch relay seems unlikely to be an untroubled "journey of harmony”.