MUSCAT, Oman – The Olympic torch arrived Monday in Oman amid tight security and expectations of a smooth relay on the Middle Eastern leg of the flame's round-the-world tour.
Officials said the flame arrived at Oman International Airport from Tanzania and was received by Omani sports minister Ali bin Masoud al-Sunaidy.
Oman, a Muslim country at the southern end of the Arabian peninsula with a booming tourism industry, has strong economic ties with China, a major importer of its oil.
Authorities have promised a trouble-free torch relay with a party-like atmosphere, including musical performances and traditional dances to be held along the planned 12-mile relay route throughout the streets of the capital, Muscat, and along its scenic waterfront.
Officials said they expect none of the protests that have marred the torch relay in other countries, adding that any attempt to disrupt the parade will be dealt with severely.
"Our security is tight. ... The Royal Oman Police is ready to handle any such situation," said Habib Macki, vice chairman of the Oman Olympic Committee, at a press conference this week.
The Olympic flame, which began its six-continent trek from ancient Olympia in Greece on March 24, has been the focus of protests over China's human rights record with major chaos and disruptions during its stops in Paris, London and San Francisco.
However, the relays in Argentina and Tanzania were largely peaceful and without major incidents.
The torch next goes to Islamabad, Pakistan, where officials said that they had changed the route of the relay. Arif Hassan, president of Pakistan Olympic Association, would not say the change was made because of security concerns, only that it was aimed at helping Wednesday's relay go smoothly.
President Pervez Musharraf, who was in China on Monday, warned against outsiders trying to disrupt the relay.
"We have to take care that there is no infiltration by some elements who are bent on disrupting our understanding and great relationship," Musharraf said in a speech at Beijing University.
With the disruptions along the flame's route this year, Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates said he supports reexamining how torch relays are conducted. After the relay is complete, the International Olympic Committee will discuss the matter with organizers of the 2012 Olympics in London, he said.
"I think that there always is the potential for something that is international to be ambushed and that's what's happened here," Coates said.
The turmoil over the torch relay and the growing international criticism of China's policies on Tibet and Darfur have turned the Beijing Games — which begin Aug. 8 — into one of the most contentious in recent history.