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Dame Kelly runs the gauntlet of protesters

PUBLISHED: 15:43 10 April 2008 | UPDATED: 14:38 25 August 2010

SPORTING heroine Kelly Holmes was jeered by hundreds of protesters in the final leg of the Olympic torch s London gauntlet.

SPORTING heroine Kelly Holmes was jeered by hundreds of protesters in the final leg of the Olympic torch's London gauntlet.

Greenwich Peninsula swarmed with around 700 impassioned activists and hundreds more pro-China flag-wavers for the last leg of the capital's Olympic relay last Sunday.

But compared to what had been an occasionally violent passage through London, Ellen MacArthur's landing with the torch at 6pm was relatively peaceful.

With hundreds of policemen and plenty of cordons, the only thing she had to worry about while taking the flame to Kelly Holmes was the untold racket from protesters.

Despite grumbles from some, including Blackheath and Greenwich Amnesty members who were barred against following the flame from the pier, most protesters seemed happy.

Claire Smith, a 37-year-old psychologist from Exeter, was sporting a yellow headband and flag reading 'Free Tibet'.

She said: "I just feel really strongly that the Olympics should not be used to legitimise China's awful human rights record.

"At the very least I hope it embarrasses the hell out of them. They can't show this on television without the protesters."

For that very reason the protesters in Greenwich had peaked in an excited euphoria, knowing the scale and success of the day's London-wide demonstration.

Ngamtang Khyentse, a monk from Essex living in India, said: "We had a fantastic turn out and these demonstrations are absolutely imperative.

"This protest just shows the level of passion and frustration felt for the Tibetan people."

As a giant Beijing Olympic official spoke from a video screen of "peace, friendship and progress", his words were drowned out by chants from an infectiously boisterous crowd.

Chinese supporters, who had travelled from across the country to show pride in their home nation, tried to remain enthusiastic throughout, but their red flags were drowned out beneath waves of protesters' banners.

Wei Huang, a Chinese national living in Essex, travelled to London with his wife because he felt proud to be a part of the Games.

When asked if he had come to Greenwich to show the world that not everyone was condemning China, he was offended.

Shouting to be heard over chants of "Shame on China", Mr Huang said: "One world, one Games - that is what we want."

"We came here for the Olympic flame, not to challenge the protesters. It makes us sad to be shouted at like this.

"I think they have it wrong. China is a normal country."

But despite the uproar, the day was not spoiled for the tiny minority of people who attended simply to see the flame being handed over.

Christine Bay, from Plumstead, said: "I came expecting the protesters.

"Suddenly they appeared but I think they were reasonably well behaved, they weren't a major problem.

"I was surprised at the numbers. But I wasn't really intimidated. If they didn't take advantage of this, what kind of campaigners would they be?"

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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