Sydney torch to bypass troubled Fiji

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The Independent Online

The Sydney 2000 Olympic torch relay is to bypass the South Pacific nation of Fiji because of the civil unrest that has arisen there out of the recent attempted coup.

The Sydney 2000 Olympic torch relay is to bypass the South Pacific nation of Fiji because of the civil unrest that has arisen there out of the recent attempted coup.

Sydney Olympic organisers said yesterday the torch, which is traversing 11 Pacific nations, would spend two days in neighbouring Tonga instead of visiting Fiji on 3 June.

The Olympics Minister, Michael Knight, said organisers could not guarantee the safety of torch bearers in Fiji, where the prime minister is being held hostage and a policeman was killed on Sunday during a rampage by a mob in the capital, Suva. "The security of our torch staff is uppermost and, as there is no guarantee their safety can be safeguarded, we have decided to cancel the relay in Fiji," Knight said in a statement.

However he said Fijian athletes would not be barred from participating in the Games, which open on 15 September. "No matter what the nature of governments in any of the 200 countries which the IOC [International Olympic Committee] has invited to the Games, their athletes are welcome to participate in the Olympics," he said.

The torch was lit in Olympia on 10 May and arrived in Guam on 22 May. It was due to travel 10,500 miles around Oceania before being flown to Uluru, Australia's Ayers Rock, on 8 June for a 100-day tour of Australia.

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