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Torch relay antics are showbiz farce'

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

AN OLYMPIAN has slammed Sunday's London-wide torch relay for being a ridiculous exhibition.

AN OLYMPIAN has slammed Sunday's London-wide torch relay for being a 'ridiculous' exhibition.

Former 5,000 metre runner Jack Braughton, 88, of Willersley Avenue, Sidcup, who ran in the 1948 London Olympic Games, said politics and sport shouldn't mix.

His comments have been echoed by MPs dismayed at the police-powered spectacle that unfolded at the weekend.

Mr Braughton, director of Norman Park Track Management, Bromley, said: "It is just a spectacle, really. Just show business. It's built up over the years and it's become ridiculous.

"The build-up to the Olympics now is more about selling things. It's an exhibition. It's not just about pure sport."

The tradition of parading the torch across the world from Athens originated at the 1936 Olympics, hosted by Nazi-ruled Germany.

Although designed to promote the host country, on Sunday the relay was marred after police arrested 37 protesters and were forced to provide constant protection.

Mr Braughton, who still runs today despite heart surgery and a hip replacement, thinks it is wrong for people to take advantage of sporting events for political ends.

He said: "Protesters are a nuisance, and fair enough that's how they get heard. But people who understand sport don't want them there."

Jacqui Lait, MP for Beckenham, insisted the 'inevitable' intertwining of international sport and politics was a good thing.

She said: "Historically, when Moscow held the Olympics it was the first time lots of journalists were let in, and the beginning of Russia opening up.

"I suspect we will see similar loosening of knowledge between the West and China with these Games.

"A lot of journalists will be going over there and they won't just be reporting on the Olympics."

The security budget announced for the event last December was £600 million, plus £238 million earmarked as backup money.

In 2012, the Olympic torch will be due to end its journey in London, with Greenwich hosting the equestrian and shooting events.

However, Eltham MP Clive Efford thinks Sunday's dramatic protests will not lead to Londoners forking out more money for extra security for the 2012 Games.

He said: "I thought it was a farce. I can't say any other thing. It was regrettable that it had to be so highly protected.

"Wherever you hold the Olympics, people will feel they have a legitimate cause for protest. I would not be surprised to see protesters of all sorts in the lead up to our Games.

"I don't think it will have any major repercussions for security because it is already so tight."

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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