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Seoul prepares to host torch relay

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(CNN) -- South Korea's capital city prepared to host its leg of the international Olympic torch relay Sunday, as thousands of police were expected to be deployed to ensure security.

The torch relay was to begin later Sunday from a park built for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, The Associated Press reported. From there, the torch would make a 15-mile journey to City Hall, AP said.

Some 8,000 riot police were being deployed to guard the flame, along with some 100 officers with marathon-running experience to follow the torch in shifts, AP reported.

Tight security accompanied the Olympic torch relay a day earlier in Japan, as thousands of police officers helped quickly end the few and sporadic protests in Nagano.

Heavy security flanked torchbearer Senichi Hoshino, manager of the Japanese national baseball team, as he started the relay Saturday in Nagano -- home of the 1998 Winter Olympic Games.

A few sideliners waved Tibetan flags, but those were outnumbered by those holding large Chinese flags. Security officers lined the streets, keeping two sides of spectators at bay, and dozens more paced in single-file alongside the torchbearers.

The relay was running smoothly until a protester holding a Tibetan flag threw himself at a torchbearer, briefly holding up the latest leg. Police officers quickly tackled the man, dragging him away before arresting him.

Uniformed and plain-clothes police also had to quell a scuffle involving pro- and anti-China spectators, leaving at least one man bloodied along the route.

Earlier, a group of anti-China protesters threw objects at the relay, prompting police to push back at the crowd. Watch the early stages of the torch relay in Japan

The torch's previous stop in Canberra, Australia, was only marginally plagued by anti-China protests, though demonstrators have caused more significant disruptions in other cities.

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Torchbearers in Nagano also include comedian Kinichi Hagimoto along with several Japanese Olympic medalists.

The original starting point of the Nagano relay, the city's famed Zenkoji Temple, declined to participate because of China's crackdown on Buddhist monks in Tibet, forcing officials to move the start of the relay.

The torch ends its round-the-world jaunt in August in Beijing.

Students for a Free Tibet Japan has announced plans to demonstrate at the Nagano leg of the relay with banners and speeches, but no loudspeakers, Japanese media reported. The demonstrators are protesting China's policy toward Tibet, which has long petitioned for more democratic rights and freedoms, and China's human rights record.

The torch has been shadowed on its journeys by pro-Tibet demonstrators who troubled the relay in London, England; Paris, France; and San Francisco, California. Stops in those cities attracted tens of thousands of demonstrators and prompted dozens of arrests.

Security concerns prompted Pakistani officials to close the relay to the public and hold it at a stadium in front of invited guests. India truncated the route and kept protesters at bay by lining the route with thousands of police officers and paramilitary troopers.

But stops in some countries, such as Argentina, Tanzania and Oman, have been trouble-free.

The flame arrived in Australia earlier this week from a relatively incident-free jaunt through Jakarta, Indonesia, where torchbearers circled a track around the city's main sports stadium in front of invited guests and journalists.

At least five people were arrested during the relay in Canberra, amid a few scuffles between pro-Tibet and pro-China demonstrators described by police as "minor."

In all, 80 runners carried the torch through the Australian capital. All along the route, and in a large crowd at the cauldron lighting, red Chinese national flags vastly outnumbered Australian flags or banners from any other nation. Video Watch how the relay was relatively incident-free »


Many in attendance appeared to be some of the thousands of Chinese students who study abroad in Australia each year.

Police quickly dealt with any signs of trouble, and the torch traveled its route -- shortened from 20 km (12 miles) to 16 km (10 miles) because of security concerns -- with little difficulty. Only once did a protester run into the street directly in front of the torchbearer, but he was swiftly taken off the street and apprehended by police. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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