China's Torch 'Thugs' Draw Their Own Controversy

Sinister keepers of the Olympic flame barred from Australia relay
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 9, 2008 2:02 PM CDT
Police and security guards apprehend a demonstrator, center, who attempts to grab the Olympic torch from TV presenter Konnie Huq, not seen, during her leg of the torch relay in London, April 6, 2008.   (AP Photo/Yui Mok, Pool)
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(Newser) – The Olympic flame’s mysterious Chinese guardians have been rubbing Europe the wrong way, Der Spiegel reports. The men in the powder blue track suits haven’t hesitated to get rough, and local authorities wonder why they’re necessary. “They are horrible,” said London’s Olympic Committee Chairman. “I think they were thugs.” The men reportedly hail from China’s special forces.

“I noticed them having skirmishes with our own police,” a London torch-bearer said. “They were barking orders like 'Run! Stop!', and I was like, 'Who are these people?'” China says the men are “employees of the Beijing Organizing Committee … chosen from around the country” for their size and athletic ability. Greece’s guards caused a similar uproar four years ago, Der Spiegel notes.