Olympic torch arrives in Beijing

The Olympic torch has arrived in the Chinese capital Beijing, ready to begin the final leg of its global relay.

The flame is due to travel to the Forbidden City and tour landmarks such as Tiananmen Square, ahead of Friday's opening ceremony of the Games.

The torch has travelled 140,000km (87,000 miles) through six continents since it left Greece on 24 March.

On Tuesday, the flame passed through Sichuan province, which was devastated by an earthquake in May.

A minute's silence was held in Guang'an city, honouring almost 70,000 people who were killed in the quake.

The torch had been scheduled to visit Sichuan in mid-June, but the area's relay leg was postponed because of the quake, which left around five million people homeless.

Tiananmen tour

After a simple reception at Beijing's international airport, the flame was taken to an secret location ahead of Wednesday's relay leg, China's Xinhua news agency reported.

Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei and basketball star Yao Ming are scheduled to join more than 800 torch bearers taking part in the three-day relay across the city of 17 million people, Xinhua added.

China's authorities have said they are confident that all athletes and spectators will be safe, after an attack by suspected separatist Muslim militants killed 16 policemen on Monday in the western region of Xinjiang.

A spokesman for the organisers said preparations had been made to protect some 10,500 athletes from 205 countries during the Olympics.

"China has focused on strengthening security and protection around Olympic venues and at the Olympics Village, so Beijing is already prepared to respond to any threat," Beijing Games spokesman Sun Weide was quoted as saying.

Officials in the co-host city of Shanghai say all shops and businesses in the metro stations have now been closed until after the Olympic Games because of public security concerns.

The operator of the underground rail system, Shentong Metro Group, said the move would affect more than 1,000 shops, and even vending machines would be closed. It said it would not provide compensation for business owners.

The International Olympic Committee said it believed the Chinese authorities had done everything possible "to ensure the security and safety of everyone at the Games".

The IOC has also assured athletes that the smog which often plagues the city would not pose major health problems.


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