February 5, 2006

Protestors force diversion of Olympic torch

By Simon Evans

SUSA, Italy (Reuters) - The Olympic torch was diverted away
from two towns some 50 kilometers from Turin on Sunday because
of feared trouble from protestors.

Winter Olympics organizing committee (TOROC) spokesman
Stefano Coscia told Reuters that the police had advised that
the torch should not to be taken through the Susa Valley towns
of Bussoleno and Burgone Susa.

Earlier on Sunday, a protestor had briefly covered the
torch with a flag when it entered Italy's Susa Valley, the
focal point for a campaign against a high-speed rail project.

"The police told us not to go through Bussoleno and Burgone
Susa through public order concerns," Coscia said.

Instead, the torch will be taken directly to the nearby
mountain town of Bardonecchia.


The torch, which began its journey in Athens on Dec 6, is
due to arrive in Turin on Thursday, the eve of the Games which
continue until Feb 26.

It is supposed to symbolize friendship across the nations
but has been the focus at recent Winter and Summer Games for

Campaigners for Tibet, against Olympic sponsor Coca-Cola
and the high-speed Susa Valley train route, have held
demonstrations during its journey through Italy from Rome but
this is the first time that protesters have forced a diversion.

More than 1,000 people had lined the central streets of the
town of Susa, with many congregating on a bridge where the
torch procession crossed.

One demonstrator covered the flame with a protest flag,
either trying to smother it or to ignite the flag.

However, the runner continued moving and a policeman
escorted the protestor away within seconds. It was not
immediately clear if any arrests were made.

Although there were some chaotic scenes on the narrow
bridge where the incident took place, the demonstration was

There have been numerous protests against a high-speed rail
link planned between Italy and France as the torch has made its
way around Italy ahead of the Winter Games that start on

The Susa Valley lies on the French-Italian border about 50
kilometers north of Turin and connects the city with mountain
resorts which will be used for the Games.