Olympic flame hijacked by anti-capitalist protesters

Italian demonstrators have hijacked the Olympic torch on its way to the Winter Games in Turin in unprecedented protests targeting the event's sponsors, Coca-Cola.

Eleanora Berlanda, the Italian 1,500 metres champion runner, was pounding the streets of the northern city of Trent bearing the torch when eight protesters, their faces hidden by scarves, burst through barriers along her route and grabbed at it.

Ms Berlanda tried to fend them off, but was soon overwhelmed and gave up. Four of her attackers seized the torch and held it aloft. Police intervened and the flame was handed back to the runner, who continued on her way to Turin's ski slopes. The flame is due in Turin on 9 February for the Games, which run from 10-26 February.

Four of the protesters escaped, but the other four were arrested and taken to a local police station, where an angry group of anarchists gathered outside in solidarity. The anarchists were booed and jeered by the crowd who had gathered to watch the progress of the flame. Some bystanders shouted "buffoni, buffoni," (buffoons) as the anarchists were led away.

"How sad, how it makes me angry too," said Ms Berlanda. "The torch is a symbol of universal peace. It never entered my head that anyone would think of offending it." Valentino Castellani, president of the Turin Olympic Committee (Toroc), called Monday night's incident an "indescribable attack".

To avoid further protests, the Games supervisor, Mario Pescante, and the Mayor of Turin, Sergio Chiamparino, have asked Toroc to change the route of the flame over the coming days to bypass the village of Bussoleno in the lower Susa Valley, the heartland of a movement which is protesting against a high-speed railway.

The torch has been involved in 33 incidents staged by anarchists and anti-globalisation activists since it left Rome on 8 December on its way to Turin.

The radical Mayor of Bussoleno has upset Olympics organisers by banning advertisements within his village for Coca-Cola, an official Olympics sponsor, seen as a symbol of the consumer culture threatening the Alpine Susa Valley. Scores of protesters have lain down in front of lorries carrying Coca-Cola to the Olympics site, drawing a strong reaction from the government. "It is unacceptable that a mayor wearing an Italian tricolour sash does not want to let the torch pass according to the foreseen procedures," said Italy's Ministry for Sport. "We will take the flame where it is welcome. Many people, the great majority, do want to see it."

The protests have gathered momentum thanks to a campaign in the lower Susa Valley against a high-speed rail link through the Alps. The incident with the torch happened as anti-globalisation demonstrators gathered in Trent for the most recent of several rallies they have called against the preparations for the February games.

They are opposed to the construction of a tunnel through mountains in the Susa Valley as part of plans to build a high-speed rail link between Turin and Lyon. Mass demonstrations in the valley in December forced the government to re-examine the scheme. But hardline groups are keeping up the pressure on the government to abandon the project completely.

A short-time before Monday's incident the Italian Interior Minister, Giuseppe Pisanu, condemned the protests against the Olympic flame as "in bad taste". He called on the rail demonstrators "to isolate the extremist anarcho-insurrectionalists" who he said had infiltrated their campaign. Police sources said the extremist groups have been under surveillance. Mr Pisanu said he was not so much worried about terrorist attacks but that there could be "illegal actions at a low-level of violence that nevertheless create great disturbance".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect