ISLAMABAD, Pakistan &
Runners carried the Olympic flame around the outside of a sports stadium today &
an invitation-only event in front of an elite, sparse crowd with heavy security to deter any anti-China protesters or terrorist attacks.
Clearly worried about the possibility that the high-profile ceremony might be disrupted, thousands of police aided by explosives-sniffing dogs stood guard as Pakistan's pro-China government ensured a trouble-free stop on the torch's global tour toward Beijing.
Televised live &
the only way the general public could watch &
the relay of Pakistani and Chinese torchbearers looked almost like a practice run as they jogged on access roads around the perimeter of Jinnah Stadium, Islamabad's main sports complex.
President Pervez Musharraf, fresh from a six-day trip to China, presented the Olympic flame to the first runner, then joined a raft of school children on reviewing stands.
Protests of China's human rights record have disrupted the torch's passage through Western cities, and Pakistan has gone to great lengths to avoid any repeat during the Olympic symbol's 22-hour stay here.
The original plans for carrying the torch along a nearly two-mile route from the white-marble Parliament in Pakistan's capital were changed.
Col. Baseer Haider, an army official helping organize the event, said the route was changed because of the "overall security environment" and the risk of bad weather. A violent hailstorm hit Islamabad on Tuesday, but the weather was fine today.
Police, many carrying guns, surrounded the stadium, where soldiers manned the main gate and checked vehicles with sniffer dogs. Only guests with invitation cards issued by the Pakistan Olympic Association were being allowed in.
"There is absolutely no chance of any trouble, any protest against it," said event coordinator Mohammed Yahya from the Pakistan Olympic Association.
A plane carrying the torch from Oman landed at the military section of Islamabad airport amid tight security early today.
About 60 Pakistani athletes took turns carrying the torch on the grounds of the stadium. A display of folk music and dancing were scheduled afterward.
The Pakistan Olympic Association urged broadcasters using state TV coverage of the torch to avoid "negative comments" and make "no mention" of the conflict in Tibet.
Pakistan has strong and long-standing defense and economic links with China. Both are rivals of neighboring India.
There had been no indications that rights groups are planning to repeat in Pakistan their protests against China, which disrupted torch relays in Paris, London and San Francisco.
The torch's stops in Kazakhstan, Russia, Argentina, Tanzania and Oman have been trouble-free.
However, rioting in two Pakistani cities in the past week has raised tension in a country permanently on guard against attacks by Islamic militants based along its border with Afghanistan. Chinese workers were targeted in two deadly attacks last year.
"We have to take care that there is no infiltration by some elements who are bent on disrupting our understanding and great relationship," Musharraf said in China on Monday.
The turmoil over the torch relay and the growing international criticism of China's policies on Tibet and Darfur have turned the Beijing Olympic Games &
which begin Aug. 8 &
into one of the most contentious in recent history.
The flame travels on Thursday to India, home to nearly 100,000 Tibetan exiles including the Dalai Lama. Thousands of police have been deployed there to avoid chaotic protests.
Although India is trying to forge closer ties with China, many in the Tibetan exile community &
the world's largest &
have been threatening more of the protests that they have held nearly every day since demonstrations first broke out in Tibet in March.
Thousands of Tibetans have reportedly been heading to New Delhi to protest and will take part in their own torch run to highlight the Tibetan struggle against Chinese rule.
In recent weeks Tibetan exiles here have stormed the Chinese Embassy, which is now surrounded by barricades and barbed wire. They have gone on hunger strikes to protest China's crackdown on riots in Tibet.
Today about 100 Tibetan exiles again tried to breach the security cordon around the Chinese Embassy. Police dragged away about 50 of them, loading them into police vans &
but not before they managed to spray paint "No Olympics in China" on a street near the embassy.
Many exiles say that Thursday's torch run through New Delhi is a perfect opportunity to make their point, despite the Dalai Lama saying he supports China's hosting of the games.
Associated Press writer Zarar Khan and Gavin Rabinowitz in New Delhi contributed to this report.
Olympic torch run has sparse Pakistani crowd, tight security
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan &