The Olympic flame for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games was lit on Monday, October 18, behind closed doors at the ancient Greek site of Olympia according to traditional ritual, a ceremony briefly disrupted by protesters who unfurled a Tibetan flag before to be arrested. “No Genocide Games” (“Games without genocide”), also proclaimed a banner barely unfolded by these demonstrators, arrested by a security employee.
The flame was lit shortly after 12 p.m. (11 a.m. in Paris) by Greek actress Xanthi Georgiou in Olympia, cradle of the Ancient Games, in the absence of the public due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Calls for a boycott of the Beijing Games and protests around the issue of human rights in China, concerning Tibet, the Uighur minority, but also Hong Kong, have multiplied in recent days.
Three Tibetan activists arrested
On Sunday, three Tibetan activists had already been arrested at the Acropolis in Athens after waving the Tibetan flag and that of the “Hong Kong revolution” at the top of the Acropolis, chanting “Boycott Beijing 2022” and “Free Tibet”.
For the second time in a row and the third in the history of the modern Olympics, the traditional ceremony was held behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, as for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Only Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), President of the Hellenic Republic Ekateríni Sakellaropoulou, representatives of the Greek and Chinese Olympic Committees and accredited journalists were present.
Before the health crisis, the flame was only lit behind closed doors in 1984, when the Greek organizers wanted to protest against the commercial nature of the Los Angeles Olympics.
Actress Xanthi Georgiou, dressed as a former Greek priestess, lit the flame in the traditional way, thanks to the rays of the sun passing through a parabolic mirror.
“In these difficult times that we are still living, the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games will be an important moment to bring the world together in a spirit of peace, friendship and solidarity”said Thomas Bach.