After a protest-marred torch relay preceding the Beijing Games last summer, the International Olympic Committee has decided to bar future organizing committees from taking the torch relay international.
The I.O.C. hopes to avoid the ugly scenes that erupted in San Francisco, Paris and London last year when anti-China protesters attempted to douse the Olympic flame, forcing the relay to be stopped and sometimes rerouted as the enterprise descended into chaos. The protests centered on China’s violent crackdown on dissenters in Tibet.
Beijing organizers had hoped to make the torch relay a celebratory part of its Olympic coming-out party. Making things worse, however, China staged part of the relay through Tibet, requiring a massive security presence amid the turmoil.
The ban begins officially for the 2014 winter Games in Sochi, Russia, but organizers of the 2010 Vancouver Games planned an all-Canada route and the 2012 London Games decided to keep the relay within Great Britain.
“Beijing had planned an international torch relay and we accepted it,” said Gilbert Felli, the I.O.C. executive director. “We saw in the debrief that the risk was there and the I.O.C. decided not to do it. I think when the torch relay is inside the host country there is more control.”