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Protesters disrupt Swiss athletics event

Protesters disrupted the start of the prestigious athletics meeting in Lausanne


The start of Lausanne's prestigious Athletissima event was controversially disrupted on Wednesday by opponents of Beijing's bid to host the 2008 Olympic games.

Under the gaze of outgoing International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch, two men burst onto the field area at the prestigious athletics event and unfurled a banner which read "No to the Olympics in Beijing."

The demonstrators were members of the Reporters sans Frontières group which is opposed to the Chinese city's candidature because of alleged human rights abuses in the country.

One of the protesters was punched in the face as both men were bundled out of the stadium by security officials.

Vincent Brossel, a spokesman for Reporters sans Frontières, said Athletissima had been chosen as the stage for the protest because the International Olympic Committee has its headquarters in Lausanne.

"This is the last major sporting event before the 2008 Olympics are awarded," Brossel said, "so this protest is taking place at the heart of the Olympic movement."

"We don't want to make sport the hostage of politics, but in the name of human rights the Olympics cannot be held in Beijing," he added.

Reacting to the way in which the pair of protesters was escorted from the stadium, Brossel said the Swiss authorities had been "quite brutal".

"We were punched in the face, but that is the chance you must take."

Beijing is believed to be a strong favourite to host the 2008 Games, ahead of Toronto, Paris, Istanbul and Osaka. The IOC is due to hold its final vote in Moscow on July 13.

Athletissima organisers were able to continue with their programme of events once the protest was over.

swissinfo with agencies


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