Officials Say Torch Run May Be Its Last

International Olympics Committee officials will meet Friday to decide whether to cancel the international portion of the Olympic Torch run after widespread protests against human rights abuses in China, the 2008 host country.

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BILL WOLFF: From NPR News in New York, this is the Bryant Park Project.

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ALISON STEWART, host:

Overlooking historic Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, we're live from the NPR Studios. This is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. News, information, overtime drama. I'm Alison Stewart.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

And I'm Rachel Martin. It's Tuesday, April 8th, and indeed, some major drama last night in NC2A championship action.

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STEWART: NC2A? Kansas, the big winner in overtime last night. I mean, it was a three pointer by this guy Mario with two seconds left. That's the game in overtime.

MARTIN: This is the best. I have to admit, I do watch a little bit of the NBA and I don't think it has nearly the drama factor as college basketball. I mean, and everyone's so invested in these games. Everyone's got their bracket. And I mean, people - BPP director Jacob Ganz has been a fan of Kansas since he was eight years old, and he just walked in today and he was like, sweet, first time in 20 years.

STEWART: I know, did you see the dance he did there, when I said "overtime drama"? There's a little dance going on in there.

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STEWART: Tonight, the ladies are going to play the women's championship in Tampa, Tennessee versus Stanford. What's coming up on the show, Rachel?

MARTIN: Well, lots of different things happening today. You might not know it's international Roma day. This is a celebration of the culture and heritage of the people who are often pejoratively referred to as gypsies. They prefer to be called "Roma" and we're going to find out more about who the Roma are, what is it that they celebrate on this day, and what are the issues that are facing the, roughly, one million Romani-Americans today.

STEWART: Have you ever sought the autograph of somebody? Ever?

MARTIN: Karl Malone, on behalf of my younger brother.

STEWART: I have only once. Only once did I get an autograph. But for some people, it's not just a pastime. It is a bidness(ph). You see somebody famous. You ask them to sign something. We're going to learn about the ins and outs of professional autograph seeking and also talk a little bit about when going too far - When going to what lengths is going too far, I should say.

MARTIN: Yeah, exactly. Also, this week, the UN, the United Nations, is kicking off a new human rights initiative. This is something that the UN Human Rights Council is kicking off. They're going to review the human rights' records of every single country, member state, of the UN. That's 192 countries. Everyone from the United States to Sudan is going to get their turn at the table to be reviewed. We're going to talk about what impact this is likely to make.

STEWART: All that, plus 36 hours in Dubai. Stick around for that. But first...

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MARTIN: A so-called "harmonious journey" has become anything but, and worldwide protests could snuff out the Olympic torch relay.

STEWART: The International Olympic Committee president says the IOC will meet Friday to decide whether to cancel the international portion of the Olympic torch run. That's after widespread disruptions of this year's relay by people protesting human rights abuses in China, the Summer Games' host country.

MARTIN: Since the torch's procession to Beijing began in Greece March 24th, activists have been lunging for the flame, throwing water and trying to aim fire extinguishers at it. Today's IOC announcement comes after three protestors in San Francisco, the next stop in the relay, scaled the Golden Bridge yesterday. They tied a Tibetan flag and two banners up on the bridge that read "Free Tibet." Local radio station KNX interviewed protester Laurel Sutherland yesterday as he climbed the bridge.

Mr. LAUREL SUTHERLAND (Protestor): The Chinese government is trying to mask these abuses with the celebration of what's supposed to be a symbol of international unity, the Olympic torch, and instead, they have turned it into a gross propaganda tool.

MARTIN: Protestors are planning their own torch relay supporting Tibetan independence today. The series of demonstrations are expected along the six-mile relay route tomorrow.

STEWART: Now, this all comes after two tumultuous days in Europe. Thirty-seven people were arrested in London on Sunday, as protestors tried to snatch the torch. The torch was reportedly put out five times in Paris yesterday, as thousands of French demonstrators clashed with police and relay officials.

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MARTIN: Chanting "Free Tibet," demonstrators lined the streets and scaled the Eiffel Tower, also hanging a "Free Tibet" sign from a major city landmark. Fearing for their own and the torch's safety, Chinese organizers ultimately canceled the last leg of the Parisian procession.

STEWART: The debate over China's Olympic role even entered the presidential race yesterday. Hillary Clinton called on President Bush to boycott the Opening Ceremony this summer, releasing a statement saying the president should only attend if the Chinese government makes, quote, "major changes to improve human rights." You can keep up-to-speed on this story at npr.org. Let's get some more of today's headlines.

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