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Torch relay a 'public relations nightmare'

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  • The Times labels torch relay a 'public relations nightmare' for London
  • Daily Mail questions presence of 'mysterious private army'
  • Olympic official says flame belongs to world's 'peace-loving people'
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- A "farce," "bitter", "ugly and chaotic," "sinister and slapstick and a "public relations nightmare;" the Olympic torch's journey of harmony and peace hit a large protester-sized road hump in London, the world's press commented Monday.

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British newspapers said the Olympic torch relay through London was a "public relations nightmare."

The British and Chinese press were far from impressed with the chaotic scenes as the Olympic torch was carried through London by a mixture of celebrities, politicians and athletes on its way to Beijing.

In the UK, The Times said the relay was "reduced to farce and ignominy" as 35 protesters were arrested after clashing with police over China's actions in Tibet.

"Despite nearly a year of planning and the deployment of 2,000 officers, the Metropolitan Police were unable to stop protesters breaking through the security cordon at vulnerable points," the Times reported.

"It was a public relations nightmare for London, with images of Tibetans pinned to the tarmac by police, and demonstrators waving placards outside Downing Street." Photo Watch a gallery of the torch relay in London »

The Daily Telegraph said the relay was nearly abandoned because of the "ugly and chaotic" scenes.

"Organizers, including Chinese officials, discussed "pulling out" of the day-long relay after just a few hours, as police fought running battles with wave after wave of anti-China protesters," the newspaper reported.

The Daily Telegraph said police were surprised by the "relentless" attempts to disrupt the parade at "every corner" of the route.

The Mail said the relay turned into a "sinister and slapstick" event "which did Britain no favor in the eyes of the world."

"Terrified athletes and celebrities carrying the torch were forced to run for cover," it reported. Video Watch supporters, opponents of the Beijing Olympics show up at the London leg of the torch relay »

"Downing Street was privately furious as the embarrassing fiasco -- costing $2 million and likened to "Chinese police state tactics" in London -- was beamed around the world on TV."

The Mail described the Chinese guards helping escort the flame as a "mysterious private army."

"Wearing blue tracksuits, the hired 'thugs' barged protesters out the way and even shoved spectators in Downing Street, where the torch was greeted by [British Prime Minister] Gordon Brown."

The Independent said "most spectators saw little more than a blur of fluorescent-yellow police jackets."

"An enormous security cordon that had something of the pantomime about it turned the relay into a public relations embarrassment for both the Chinese and British authorities," it said.

The Guardian said the relay was "a journey of harmony" but there was precious little unity on display" while the tabloid Sun described the scenes as "shocking."

The New York Times said the relay descended into a "tumult of scuffles," and expressed concern about the torch's future path ahead of its arrival in San Francisco on Wednesday. Look at a map of the international torch relay route

"The tour could prove jarring for Beijing. What organizers had billed as an occasion to celebrate the Olympics' sporting ideals of peace and harmony turned into a daylong contest between China's supporters and demonstrators protesting China's crackdown in Tibet and its wider human rights record."

The Chinese press said London residents were indignant about the protests and quoted angry officials.

The China Daily said "tens of thousands of people lined the route of the relay to cheer the event; far outnumbering protesters."

"Many spectators voiced disapproval of attempts to disrupt the torch relay by those who claimed they had done so for 'political causes,'" it reported.

It quoted Nick, a British university student, who said that "sports should be separated from political things."

A spokesman for the torch relay center of the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee told the newspaper that the Olympic flame "belongs to the world and the act of violating the Olympic spirit will surely arouse the indignation of the peace-loving people and is bound to fail."Video Watch a report on the torch's journey, Jowell's comments »

The China People's Daily newspaper also carried comments from an organizing committee official criticizing the attempt by some "pro-Tibet independence" activists to sabotage the relay in an "obvious act of defying the Olympic spirit."

Meanwhile the Xinhua news service made no mention of the protests, preferring to focus on the cold weather and crowd numbers.

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"The heavy snow in London exerted slim effect on people's passion of seeing Beijing Olympic flame as large crowds lined along the street to greet the relay of torch on Sunday in the host city of 2012 Games," it reported.

The relay continues in Paris Monday, with an estimated 3,000 French police chaperoning the torch as it departs from the Eiffel Tower. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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