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City officials were told the attendants were needed to carry the keys to turn the torches on and off as the flame was passed from runner to runner.
"We thought they were talking about some youth or civic volunteer group - then we found out they were actually ninja-style paramilitary police," said one City Hall source who was in on the talks, but asked not to be named because of the diplomatic sensitivity over the dustup.
Chances are people wouldn't have noticed the attendants had not Majora Carter, one of the torchbearers, pulled a Tibetan flag out during her run.www.sfgate.com.../c/a/2008/04/13/BA161045V4.DTL
Then came the disrupted torch run through Istanbul and a photo of at least one of the attendants in a blue-and-white jogging outfit not just protecting the torch, but going after someone in the crowd.www.sfgate.com.../c/a/2008/04/13/BA161045V4.DTL
Sebastian Coe, the chairman of the London Olympic Committee, has described the Chinese officials guarding the Olympic torch as "thugs", piling more embarrassment onto the Games' organisers.
Lord Coe was overheard talking about the attendants, who formed part of a huge security presence around the flame, during a private telephone conversation with a member of his press team.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, visiting London for talks with his British counterpart Gordon Brown before leaving for Beijing, said China would not be permitted to have its own tracksuit-clad security detachment for the torch in Australia.