Greek police arrested three activists who entered the ancient stadium at Olympia to unfurl the flag of Tibet and a protest banner during the fire-lighting ceremony to pass the Olympic flame to China ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February 2022.
Four other activists were arrested in a separate incident away from the Olympic torch ceremony and were later released.
According to the United Press International website, the three activists who were arrested during the ceremony were Tibetan activist Chemi Lhamo, Fern McDougal and Jason Leith of Free Tibet. No charges were immediately filed against them.
On Sunday, two other activists were arrested after they unfurled banners on the scaffolding at the Acropolis, which drew attention to Hong Kong and Tibetan rights. They repeatedly called for a boycott of the Winter Games.
The activists were identified as Tibetan-American student Tsela Zoksang, aged 18 , and exiled Hong Kong activist Joey Siu, 22. Both are US citizens who are members of the “‘No Beijing 2022’ cross movement campaign working for Tibetan, Uyghur, Hong Kong, Chinese, Taiwanese and Mongolian human rights activists”. They were released on Monday.
A New-York based organisation Students for a Free Tibet said in a statement that the protesters had not worn “political paraphernalia and were not charged for any crime.
“The coalition is demanding the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reverse its mistake in awarding Beijing the honor of hosting the Winter Olympic Games in 2022. Despite appeals from frontline communities and human rights groups, the IOC has repeatedly ignored the evidence of the egregious human rights abuses by China including a genocide of the Uyghur people, the brutal and illegal occupation of Tibet, and the severe and worsening crackdown against freedom and democracy in Hong Kong,” Students for a Free Tibet said.
The president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, who spoke during the ceremony in Olympia said the Games had always stood above conflict.
“In our fragile world, where division, conflict and mistrust are on the rise, the Olympic Games always build bridges. They never erect walls,” Mr Bach said.
“The Olympic Games cannot address all the challenges in our world. But the Olympic Games set an example for a world where everyone respects the same rules and one another. They inspire us to solve problems in friendship and solidarity. They build bridges leading to better understanding and friendship among people. This is the timeless message that this Olympic flame will send from our spiritual home here in Ancient Olympia, to Beijing, and to the world.”
Last week in response to criticism that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should hold China to account on its human rights record, IOC vice president John Coates said that the committee did not have the power to tell other countries how they should act.
“We have to respect the sovereignty of the countries who are hosting the games,” the news channel Al Jazeera quoted Mr Coates as saying.
“The IOC’s remit is to ensure that there are no human rights abuses in respect of the conduct of the Games within the National Olympic Committees or within the Olympic movement.”
“We have no ability to go into a country and tell them what to do. All we can do is to award the Olympics to a country, under conditions set out in a host contract… and then ensure they are followed,” Mr Coates was reported as saying.