By Matthew Henry
CANBERRA: Samsung’s global sponsorship of the Olympic Torch Relay has been overshadowed by pro-Tibetan rallies and violent outbursts around the world, but the Australian subsidiary is calling for peace during the Canberra leg tomorrow.
Crowds of protesters are expected to line the torch’s 16km tour through the nation’s capital on Thursday to denounce the suppression of Tibet’s independence movement and alleged human rights abuses by the Chinese government.
Steel barriers have been erected along the route while half of Canberra’s police force will be on duty to ward off violence, which has marred the torch’s worldwide tour to date.
Negative sentiment towards the torch relay is the last thing Samsung would want, and the company’s Australian director of marketing, Kurt Jovais, is calling on protesters to recognize the torch as a symbol of unity.
"The Olympic Games were founded to bring the global community together, and in doing so, to help promote peace. We hope all parties remember and respect that the Olympic Torch Relay is an expression of this vision, which Samsung is proud to support,” said Jovais in a statement late yesterday.
"Samsung’s involvement in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games is guided by the recognition of human achievement through sport and we are pleased to be providing essential resources for Australia’s Olympic athletes and the Olympic Games,” he said.
“While we continue to support the rights of all citizens to peacefully express their opinions, we look forward to continuing the relay in South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and to supporting the message of peace and global harmony that the Olympic Torch embodies.”
Samsung yesterday announced dual Olympic swimmer, Matt Welsh, will be one of six torchbearers at tomorrow’s relay.
Welsh said being a torchbearer was a perfect way to wrap up his Olympic career.
“I have always wanted to run with the Olympic Torch but never had the chance,” said Welsh.
“Now I have retired, this opportunity means much more to me as I have the chance to step back from rigorous training schedules and just enjoy the moment.”
Other bearers were selected for their community service record and include Neighbour Day founder, Andrew Heslop; Trooper Andrew Behrndt, ASLAV crewman, 2nd Cavalry Regiment; Janelle White, NSW Ambulance paramedic; Sophie Bowen, student of Notre Dame University; and, Aaron Fleming, New Zealand torchbearer.
However, Australian of the Year, Lin Hatfield Dodds, pulled out of the relay Tuesday citing concerns over China’s human rights record.