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Olympic torch expert vague on tactics for protestors

An Olympic torch relay expert who’s worked on flame routes for the Beijing, Sydney and Torino games offered few suggestions for managing protestors at a luncheon speech earlier today.

Speaking to business leaders, B.C. community reps and media, Diane Henry told rousing stories about torchbearers and outlined commercial opportunities for towns along the relay route.

The event was bookended by two montage videos of past torch relays featuring heart-string-tugging soft rock music.

According to a press release circulated to reporters, Henry has been involved with 13 torch relays affecting 170 nations. “[She] is one of the most experienced international event managers and torch relay experts in the world,” read the release.

During a very brief question period following her speech, though, Henry had little advice for how to deal with protestors along the torch route for the 2010 Winter Games.

“That’s definitely a question for VANOC,” she joked. “It’s a very tricky question… I think it’s a free country and people can protest by the side of the road in a peaceful fashion.”

Jim Richards, director of torch relays for Vancouver 2010, said the potential to draw protestors is a significant challenge for route organizers and communities.

“We respect individuals' right to protest,” he said. “What we would ask for them is that they allow for families, children and the young at heart to engage and enjoy the rally.”

Asked what plans VANOC has in place to deal with unruly protestors, Richards was vague.

“We’ll be looking to work with the RCMP on those plans,” he said.

The $30 million Olympic torch relay will travel 45,000 kilometres and pass through 266 B.C. communities or places of interest on its way to Vancouver.

Geoff Dembicki is a staff reporter for the Hook.

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