No trouble for Olympic torch in Buenos Aires, to organizers' relief
BUENOS AIRES: Argentines offered Olympic organizers a respite on Friday as the Olympic torch passed through their capital amid festive spirits and in an orderly manner. Protests were minimal and nonviolent, making the South American leg of the torch relay one of the most trouble-free of its world tour to date.
Many Argentines were pleased that they had pulled off what such first-world cities as Paris and San Francisco could not. "I feel proud and happy," said María Margarita Ferreyra, who had traveled from Córdoba Province, northwest of Buenos Aires, to see the torch. "We deserve this type of world recognition."
The torch left the docks of the Puerto Madero district shortly after 2 p.m. and arrived unimpeded at its final destination in the leafy Núñez neighborhood approximately three hours later. Organizers adhered to the original, pre-announced eight-mile route without deviation. Police presence was heavy.
Eighty people carried the torch. Most were Argentines but other Latin Americans also took part.
Earlier in the day, Argentina's branches of Free Tibet and the Falun Gong held a peaceful protest at the central Obelisk monument.
Gonzalo Verde, 35, who was among several Argentines carrying a long "Free Tibet" banner, said he was protesting because "the people of Tibet do not have the right to express their opinions or their religion."
Yet, protesters were outnumbered by onlookers and journalists. The streets were not even closed to traffic.
After speeches condemning China's human rights record, the protesters marched to Plaza de Mayo, a square known for its political protests and often violent confrontations. But they did not interfere with the torch, which passed by an hour later. In fact, most protesters had already left.
Separately, dozens of people who appeared to be Chinese nationals showed up to support their government. Three who were interviewed said they were students in Buenos Aires who came of their own accord. Still, virtually all wore identical red jackets emblazoned with the logo "Beijing 2008."