Protesters Try to Grab Olympic Torch During London Relay

Police repeatedly scuffled with protesters as Olympians and celebrities carried the Olympic torch through snowy London during a chaotic relay Sunday.

Demonstrators tried to board a relay bus after five-time Olympic gold medalist rower Steve Redgrave launched procession at Wembley Stadium — presaging a number of clashes with police along the torch's 31-mile journey.

There have been 25 arrests, Metropolitan Police said.

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In west London, a protester tried to grab the torch out of the hands of a children's television presenter, forcing police to briefly stop the procession as officers detained the man. Another demonstrator tried to snuff out the flame with what appeared to be a fire extinguisher. Others in the crowd threw themselves at torchbearers running past in official Beijing 2010 Olympics tracksuits.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown briefly greeted the torch when it arrived outside his Downing Street residence as pro-Tibet demonstrators and police clashed yards away near Britain's Parliament buildings.

Demonstrators swelled in number near to the spot where Chinese Ambassador Fu Ying had been expected to carry the Olympic torch, forcing a last-minute change of plan. Fu emerged with flame in the heart of London's Chinatown instead, and managed to jog unhindered before handing over the torch to the next participant in the relay.

There had been contradictory reports over whether Fu had pulled out of the relay, with the Chinese Embassy refusing to confirm her place until the last moment.

In London's historic Bloomsbury area, police separated anti-China protesters from hundreds of flag-waving Chinese who turned out to support their nation and the Olympics.

"As an English person, I have a right to stand where I want to on the street," pro-Tibet demonstrator Roger Moulland, 54, from Brighton, said as he was moved away by police.

Hundreds of protesters along the route chanted slogans including "Free Tibet!" "Stop killing in Tibet!" and "China, talk to Dalai Lama."

"There was definitely a bit of an edge," British tennis player Tim Henman, one of the torchbearers, told The Associated Press.

But police Cmdr. Jo Kaye called the incidents minor. "It's going to be a long day but the torch is progressing on schedule," Kaye told British Broadcasting Corp. television.

Brown allowed the flame to arrive outside his Downing Street office but never handled the torch. Instead, he watched as Olympic gold medalist Denise Lewis handed it to Paralympic hopeful Ali Jawad.

Activists demonstrating China's human rights record and a recent crackdown on Tibet have been protesting along the torch route since the start of the flame's 85,000-mile odyssey from Ancient Olympia in Greece to Beijing, host of the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The torch's global tour is the longest in Olympic history and is meant to highlight China's growing economic and political power. But it has also offered protest groups abundant opportunity to draw attention to their concerns.

"People are traveling from across the country and Europe as well to participate," said spokesman Terry Bettger of the Free Tibet Campaign.

London's Metropolitan Police said it was aware of six organizations, including the Free Tibet campaign, the spiritual group Falun Gong and a group calling for democracy in Myanmar, planning to protest. The force deployed 2,000 officers along the route.

The 80 torchbearers include Olympic champion runner Kelly Holmes and violinist Vanessa Mae.

Several dropped out to protest China's human rights record. Richard Vaughan, Britain's top badminton player, said he would not participate because China was not doing enough to stop violence in the Sudanese region of Darfur.

Before the relay, British Chinese residents said they hoped for a peaceful relay.

"The Olympic games are very important for all Chinese. In Chinatown, everyone is very anxious to see the torch pass," said London Chinese Community Center spokeswoman Annie Wu. "We hope it goes smoothly."

The torch relay is expected to face more demonstrations in Paris, San Francisco, New Delhi and possibly elsewhere during its 21-stop, six-continent tour before reaching mainland China on May 4.