ANITA CHANG
Associated Press
April 9, 2008

BEIJING (AP) — They wear bright blue tracksuits and Beijing Olympic organizers call them “flame attendants.” But a military bearing hints at their true pedigree: paramilitary police sent by Beijing to guard the Olympic flame during its journey around the world.

Torchbearers have criticized the security detail for aggressive behavior, and a top London Olympics official simply called them “thugs.”

“They were barking orders at me, like ‘Run! Stop! This! That!’ and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, who are these people?'” former television host Konnie Huq told British Broadcasting Corp. radio about her encounter with the men in blue during London’s leg of the relay Sunday.

So far, the “29th Olympic Games Torch Relay Flame Protection Unit” — as the squad is officially known — has kept the flame from being seized during chaotic, protest-filled runs through Paris and London.

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