China's treatment of minorities has come under increased scrutiny in the run-up to the games, scheduled from February 4-20. Activists protested at Ancient Olympia on Monday (October 18), where the flame lighting ceremony was held.
"The Olympic Torch is supposed to represent peace and hope, but for our people who are living under the brutal Chinese Communist Party this represents global complicity in China's extreme repression," said Uyghur-Canadian Zumretay Arkin, Programme and Advocacy Manager of the World Uyghur Congress, during a news conference in an Athens hotel, also attended by representatives from Tibetan human rights organizations, including campaigns director at Students for a Free Tibet Pema Doma, who had been detained by police the day before in Ancient Olympia before being released.
The news conference took place shortly before the Olympic flame handover ceremony from Athens to Beijing was to take place at the Panathenaic Stadium in downtown Athens, a few kilometers away.
Rights groups and U.S. lawmakers have called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the Games and relocate the event unless China ends what the United States deems ongoing genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslims.