Sachin Tendulkar is a leader

Massive police march in India: torch relay in the high-security wing

First Indian top athletes canceled, but then everything went smoothly: Massive security measures prevented disruptions at the Olympic torch relay in Delhi.

Martial forces in Delhi: Ex-Tibetans and police Image: dpa

DELHItaz India's capital Delhi only knows a comparable line-up of security forces from the annual military parade on "Republic Day" in January: 15,000 police officers, many of them in riot gear, almost militarily secured the entire government district on Thursday because of the Olympic torch relay.

After running the gauntlet so far, the Olympic torch in Delhi had to cope with one of the most critical passages: India is home to the world's largest Tibetan community in exile with more than 100,000 people. India is the center of the protest against China's policies in Tibet: Tibetans have tried several times to storm the Chinese embassy in Delhi.

For fear of riots, the planned nine-kilometer route had been severely shortened. Thus, each of the 70 runners was able to carry the symbolic torch just a few meters on their way from the presidential palace to the "India Gate" monument, which is around two kilometers away. They were accompanied by the well-known Chinese security forces in blue and white tracksuits. Despite the strong police presence, there were marginal clashes with demonstrators.

Smaller groups tried to break through the security ring. Arrests also occurred when Tibetans tried to block roads leading to the government district. In the financial metropolis of Bombay, too, the police arrested 45 Tibetans who had tried to demonstrate in front of the Chinese consulate.

Several top Indian athletes had canceled their participation in the torch relay. Almost two weeks ago, Baichung Bhutia, the captain of the national soccer team, said he would boycott the torch relay in order to "help the Tibetan people in their struggle". Cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar only canceled on Wednesday. He justified this with "health problems". Tendulkar was the fourth athlete to retire from the event.

Several Tibetan groups held their own alternative "peace run" near the official route that morning. Around 2,000 people carried Tibetan flags, many of them wearing "Free Tibet" headbands. They chanted "Long Live the Dalai Lama" and "Stop the atrocities in Tibet".

The alternative torch relay started at the emblematic monument to the leader of the Indian struggle for independence, Mahatma Gandhi. The writer Arundhati Roy, known for her sharp criticism of the government, also took part.

SASCHA ZASTIRAL