LONDON – Police scuffled with protesters as Olympians and dignitaries carried the torch Sunday during a chaotic relay through snowy London.
Demonstrators tried to board a relay bus after five-time Olympic gold medalist rower Steve Redgrave launched procession at Wembley Stadium — presaging a number of clashes with police along the torch’s 31-mile journey.
In west London, a protester tried to grab the torch out of the hands of a TV presenter, forcing police to briefly stop the procession as officers detained the man. Another demonstrator tried to snuff out the flame with what appeared to be a fire extinguisher.
Others in the crowd threw themselves at torchbearers running past in official Beijing 2010 Olympics tracksuits, surrounded by a phalanx of security officials jogging alongside them to protect them — and the torch — from protesters.
The protests have forced officials to make unscheduled changes to the relay route, Metropolitan Police said. Thirty people have been arrested.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown briefly greeted the torch when it arrived outside his Downing Street residence as pro-Tibet demonstrators and police clashed yards away near Britain’s Parliament buildings.
Demonstrators swelled in number near the spot where Chinese Ambassador Fu Ying had been expected to carry the Olympic torch. Instead, Fu emerged with the torch in the heart of London’s Chinatown, managing to jog unhindered before handing it over to the next participant.
Along the route, hundreds of protesters chanted “Free Tibet!” “Stop killing in Tibet!” and “China, talk to Dalai Lama!”
In London’s historic Bloomsbury area, police separated anti-China protesters from flag-waving Chinese who turned out to support their nation and the Olympics.