February 8, 2010 / 9:21 PM / 8 years ago

Torch nears Vancouver where protests await

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.

<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>

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.

Furlong said the 106-day relay has gone off without a hitch

in its first 102 days and that the VANOC security team would make sure it stayed that way until the end.

“We have complete confidence in them that they will look after that and that the atmosphere in and around the stadium and the city at 6 p.m. on Friday night will be fantastic,” Furlong said.

Runners on the final day include California Governor and former action movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger, who will pass the torch to British Olympic double gold medalist Sebastian Coe.

Reporting by Mary Milliken; editing by Jon Bramley

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