Mayor admits mistake in allowing Chinese secret police to guard torch

Updated: April 15, 2008, 2:09 PM ET

LONDON -- Mayor Ken Livingstone said on Tuesday that it was a mistake to allow Chinese secret police officers to guard the Olympic torch when it was paraded through London earlier this month.

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"It was wrong and should not have happened," Livingstone told a BBC Radio London debate.

Livingstone, who is standing for reelection as the Labour Party's candidate in London's mayoral elections next month, was taking part in the debate with two of his fellow candidates, Conservative Party candidate Boris Johnson and Brian Paddick, representing the Liberal Democrats.

The debate was being broadcast later on Tuesday but his remarks were carried earlier on the BBC's Web site.

Livingstone was asked if he knew in advance that the Olympic torch guards were members of China's military secret police and he said he did not.

"Had I known, I would have said it was unacceptable," he said. "We are not involved in the running of the Olympics during the election campaign."

Metropolitan police officers later criticized the guards, distinguished in their bright blue tracksuits, after scuffles broke out between police and anti-China protesters.

Sebastian Coe, the head of London's 2012 Olympics Organizing Committee, described the guards as "thugs" who, he claimed, tried to push him out of the way of the procession.

A total of 37 people were arrested as the torch made its way through London on April 6.

The protests began soon after the relay left Wembley Stadium and was reduced to a farce when organizers were forced to move the torch on to a bus.

Protests have also marred Olympic torch relays in Paris and other cities.

Earlier on Tuesday it was announced in New Delhi that India had trimmed the route for its planned Olympic torch relay this week, fearing Tibetan protesters might try to disrupt the procession.

The final route is still to be announced, but the Indian media reported the torch will travel less than a third of the original five-mile distance in one of New Delhi's most heavily guarded neighborhoods on Thursday.

"The route has been curtailed. ... We are meeting now to decide all the plans for the relay," Randhir Singh, secretary-general of the Indian Olympic Association, told Reuters.

The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, and the Tibetan government-in-exile are based in northern India and the country has had dozens of anti-China protests since last month's deadly riots in Tibet and surrounding regions.

China reacted strongly, summoning the Indian envoy to Beijing to express its displeasure and urge New Delhi to ensure adequate security for the Olympic torch, which has been a magnet for protests across the world.