No spectators, no protests as Olympic flame is handed over to Beijing 2022 at historic Panathenaic Stadium in Athens

The flame is due to arrive in Beijing on Wednesday. Pandemic protocols forced the cancellation of the traditional Torch Relay across Greece.

Winter Olympics - Flame handover ceremony in Athens for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics - Panathenaic Stadium, Athens, Greece - October 19, 2021 President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee Spyros Capralos passes the torch with the flame to Vice-President of the Organising Committee of Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics and Vice-President of the International Olympic Committee Yu Zaiqing during the ceremony REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Winter Olympics - Flame handover ceremony in Athens for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics - Panathenaic Stadium, Athens, Greece - October 19, 2021 President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee Spyros Capralos passes the torch with the flame to Vice-President of the Organising Committee of Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics and Vice-President of the International Olympic Committee Yu Zaiqing during the ceremony REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

The Olympic flame, housed in a special safety lantern, is en route to China after being officially passed to the Beijing 2022 Organizing Committee at a special ceremony in Athens.

Yu Zaiging, the vice president of BOCOG and the Chinese Olympic Committee, received the flame on behalf of BOCOG from Hellenic Olympic Committee President and International Olympic Committee member Spyros Capralos at the handover ceremony at the historic Panathenaic Stadium on Tuesday.

The ceremony, which was held without spectators due to the pandemic, began with the Olympic flame carried into the stadium by Athens 2004 water polo silver medalist Evi Moraitidou, who passed it on to Li Nina (a two-time Olympic silver medalist in freestyle skiing) before the flame was finally received by Greek skier and biathlete Paraskevi Ladopoulou, who lit a gold ceremonial cauldron in the center of the stadium.

Before the official handover, Yu gave an address and recalled that the Olympic flame was handed over to Beijing for the first time 13 years ago ahead of the 2008 Summer Games.

“Over the past 13 years, China’s efforts to promote the Olympic spirit, the Olympic culture and Olympic knowledge have never stopped.

“As a symbol of the Olympic spirit, the Olympic flame will travel to the Great Wall and across other parts of China, bringing with it the light of peace and friendship.

“Let us meet at the rendezvous of ice and snow; let us run towards a shared, brighter future. We look forward to meeting you in Beijing for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games.”

Winter Olympics - Flame handover ceremony in Athens for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics - Panathenaic Stadium, Athens, Greece - October 19, 2021 Greek actress Xanthi Georgiou, playing the role of High Priestess passes the torch with the flame to President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee Spyros Capralos during the ceremony REUTERS/Louiza Vradi
Winter Olympics - Flame handover ceremony in Athens for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics - Panathenaic Stadium, Athens, Greece - October 19, 2021 Greek actress Xanthi Georgiou, playing the role of High Priestess passes the torch with the flame to President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee Spyros Capralos during the ceremony REUTERS/Louiza Vradi

Following Yu’s comments, the official torch for Beijing 2022 was ignited by Greek actress Xanthi Georgiou, who also played the role of high priestess during the official Olympic lighting ceremony held in Ancient Olympia on Monday.

She then passed the torch to Capralos, who handed it to Yu.

COVID-19 precautions forced the cancellation of the usual Torch Relay across Greece ahead of the flame leaving for the host Olympic city. Instead, the flame was taken to the Athens airport and is scheduled to arrive in Beijing on Wednesday.

There was no repeat of the protests that occurred at the lighting event in Ancient Olympia on Monday.

Greek police arrested three human rights activists who managed to circumvent the security barriers and successfully disrupt the ceremony, unfurling a Tibetan flag and a banner reading “No genocide games”.

Besides the disturbance at the flame lighting on Monday, Greek police on Sunday detained two human rights activists as they unveiled banners at the Athens Acropolis in protest of the upcoming Games.

Human rights groups and some politicians have called for a boycott of the Winter Games over China’s human rights record and its effort to stymie democracy in Hong Kong.

Some U.S. members of Congress have called on the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Games and relocate the event unless China ends what many deem as an ongoing genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups.

Chinese authorities have been accused of facilitating forced labor by detaining around a million Uyghurs and other primarily Muslim minorities in camps since 2016.

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