They’re the Chinese guys in blue tracksuits who are never far from he Olympic torch and no-one seems sure who they are. Not even the British Olympic Minister. Several of you asked about them yesterday. Shirong Chen’s our China Editor and a regular on WHYS. He’s written this dispatch. I thought you’d like to read it.
SHIRONG CHEN’S DISPATCH
They are the cream of China’s armed police, carefully selected from across the country, with specialist training in crowd control and vehicle handling. That’s why they look like actors out of the film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. The seventy or so young officers were sworn in as the Olympic Flame Guardians in August 2007 to take responsibility during the torch relays across the continents and inside China. Their tasks are to ensure the original flame from Greece never goes out, and to guard the torchbearers during the relay. The ten to twelve young men seen in blue track suits come from a group of 30 officers who would run with the torchbearers throughout the torch relay outside China, and keep watch over the flame lanterns in hotels or on the chartered aeroplane in three shifts until the opening ceremony in Beijing on the 8th August.
Besides physical and technical training in collecting the flame and lighting up the torches, the guardians have also received training in foreign customs and basic language skills in English, French and German. But it looks as though their training isn’t enough to cope with the overwhelming protests.