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Olympic torch arrives in Argentina

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  • Officials plan for possible disruptions such as those that occurred in other relay cities
  • Protests are likely to be in a diminished form, protest planners said
  • The flame is to be carried eight miles by athletes, artists, journalists
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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (CNN) -- As government billboards called on residents in Buenos Aires to enjoy Friday's planned leg of the Olympic torch run, officials in the Argentine capital were planning for possible disruptions such those that have occurred in other relay cities.

"There is a little bit more attention, mostly because of the things that have happened in London, in Paris, in San Francisco," said Francisco Irarrazaval, an official with Argentina's sports ministry.

"But we also don't want to convert this into a military event. This is a sports event, it is a cultural event, a beautiful event."

The protests that have occurred in other cities are likely to be repeated here, but in diminished form, protest planners said. The denunciations of China's human rights policy will be accompanied by "creative and peaceful" interventions, one planner said.

"We know that it will not be violent," said Axel Borgia, from the World Human Rights Torch Relay group. "We joined all type of organizations from Tibet. They too will carry out activities during the relay of the China torch. Our activity is beforehand. We don't plan anything during the Olympic torch."

The flame is to be carried eight miles (13 kilometers) by athletes, artists, journalists and even an economist and a Taiwanese businessman -- each person is slated to carry the torch for 90 seconds.

The final carrier is to be Gabriela Sabatini, Argentina's top female tennis player and winner of the silver medal in Seoul in 1988.

On Thursday, a spokeswoman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he has told Chinese authorities that he "may not" be in position to attend the Opening Ceremonies of the Games due to scheduling issues. Video Watch as China copes with a public relations nightmare »

Ban's announcement came a day after British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he would not attend.

President Bush has not committed to attending the Opening Ceremonies, though he does plan to attend the Games.

"While he's there, he can also take an opportunity to press them on religious freedoms, because this is something that is going to continue after the Olympics," said White House press secretary Dana Perino. "And not attending an opening ceremony, whether anyone does or not, does not really change the fact that we need to press them before, during and well after the Olympics."

In Beijing on Thursday, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge called the events a "crisis" in an address to the 205 National Olympic Committees.

"It is a crisis, there is no doubt about that," he said. "But the IOC has weathered many bigger storms. The history of the Olympic Games is fraught by a lot of challenges. This is a challenge."

Still, he defended the demonstrators' rights to protest.

"A person's ability to express his or her opinion is a basic human right and as such does not need to have a specific clause in the Olympic Charter because its place is implicit," he said.

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"But we do ask that there is no propaganda nor demonstrations at Olympic Games venues for the very good and simple reason that we have 205 countries and territories represented, many of whom are in conflict, and the Games are not the place to take political nor religious stances."

He predicted that there would be few breaches of decorum. "Athletes are mature and intelligent people," he said. "They will know what they can say or not say. If they have doubts, the IOC and the NOCs are here to guide them." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Javier Doberti contributed to this report from Buenos Aires.

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