Torch nears Vancouver where protests await

Mon Feb 8, 2010 4:16pm EST
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By Mary Milliken

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - The torch relay this week enters Winter Games host city Vancouver where protesters await but organizers said on Monday they do not fear disruptions to the final stretch of the longest torch relay in Olympic history.

After traveling 45,000 kilometers by canoe, dog sled and snowboard among other typical Canadian vehicles, the torch will enter the indoor stadium for the opening ceremony on Friday night.

A final person, whose identity will be kept secret until that time, will light the Olympic flame which will burn for the two weeks of Games.

"I am not worried about disruptions," said John Furlong, chief executive of the Vancouver Organising Committee (VANOC).

"If people make it to side of road to express their view, we trust they will do it in a traditional Canadian way -- respectfully," Furlong added.

The Olympic Resistance Network, one of the main groups opposing the 2010 Games, has called protesters to Vancouver on Friday to "welcome the 2010 Olympic torch with free Games, free speech, and free food!"

There have been protests that money spent on the 2010 Games would have been better used in fixing social problems in the country.

Protesters at past Olympics like the previous Winter Games in Turin, Italy, have used the spotlight on the torch to make political statements.   Continued...

<p>Anti-poverty protestors march their version of the Olympic Torch through the streets of Vancouver, British Columbia February 7, 2010. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>