Barry Saxby, of Ballina, will watch on television as his daughter, former Olympian Kerry Saxby-Junna, carries the Olympic torch.
Barry Saxby, of Ballina, will watch on television as his daughter, former Olympian Kerry Saxby-Junna, carries the Olympic torch.

Ballina torch bearers hope for peaceful protests

SPORT is sport, and politics is politics, but wrestling the limelight from the Olympic flame just isn't cricket, according to local torch bearers.

Former Ballina race walker Kerry Saxby-Junna and former Ballina swimmer Adam Pine will each carry the Olympic torch today.

They both expect Tibetan human rights activists to protest against the Olympic flame's progression through Australia.

After a relay route marred by violent protests in Greece, England, France and the US, the flame arrived at Canberra's Fairbairn RAAF base yesterday and was immediately sent into hiding ahead of today's 80-person leg.

Australian organisers have beefed up security and kept the exact relay route and runner sequence details a secret to deter any pre-orchestrated disruptions. Last night there were reports of several groups of protesters heading to Canberra.

Ms Saxby-Junna watched from her Canberra home as the torch touched down.

"I'm excited that it's happening finally ... there's been a lot of publicity about it," she said.

"Given all the security I'm not worried about myself.

"I suppose of more concern is what's going to happen between the protesters.

"My mum and children will be in the crowd watching.

"It's hard to know what will happen. I'm hoping it (protests) doesn't happen, but from what I can see when you go down to the precinct today and go past all the barricades, it's going to be interesting."

Adam Pine, who is participating in an Olympics orientation camp, said he hoped the relay was not overshadowed by protests.

"I'll be running about 10.30am with the flame in my hand," he said.

"It's a great honour.

"It's always very exciting to be part of the flame's progression and promoting the Olympic spirit, especially knowing that I'll be in the bird's nest (Chinese Olympic stadium) for the opening ceremony on the eighth of the eighth, 08 to see the lighting of the Games cauldron."

Mr Pine said the torch relay was not the right forum to voice human rights concerns.

"I expect there will be plenty of protests, but hopefully they will be done in a respectful way so the torch-bearers can get on with carrying the flame," he said.

"I really have no opinion on the issue (China's treatment of Tibetan citizens). I don't support it either way.

"I think it's sad the Olympic movement has been touched by the protests. Everyone has the right to protest, but it's a shame the Olympic relay has been touched by it.

"Sport should be separate from human rights interests."

Ms Saxby-Junna said while she agreed sport should not be used for political gain, the protests had opened her eyes to the plight of Tibet and its people.

"I've said from the start that politics and sport don't mix," she said.

"The protests are sad.

"The Tibetan people have to get their point across, and I think it has made us aware of how China is treating Tibet, but the torch relay is supposed to be for peace and harmony and protests are not really in the spirit of it."

Although sympathetic to the plight of Tibet, Ms Saxby-Junna said she had no plans to follow social justice advocate Lin Hatfield Dodds and pull out of the relay.

"The thought of pulling out never crossed my mind," she said.

"It's terrible what's been going on in Tibet and China ... unfortunately, with the Olympics, you get worldwide coverage and that's when you expect the protesters to come out.

"But sport should be just sport and politics should be kept separate.

"As the former Olympics softballer (Jo Brown) who took her (Hatfield Dodds) spot said, they shouldn't mix."

The region's third torch bearer, Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Petria Thomas, was unavailable for comment.

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