TURIN, Italy — Demonstrators airing grievances forced Olympic torchbearers to change their route Thursday as they entered Turin. The torch eventually reached its destination in the center of the city, but the incident was the latest of several that have plagued preparations for the Games, which open today.
About 200 demonstrators in Piazza Sabotino on the western side of the city did not actually clash with supporters of the Games, and no violence was reported.
Instead, they sang and waved banners. Some said they opposed the Olympics being in Turin, an industrial city saddled with high unemployment.
Others were part of an ongoing campaign to stop the construction of a high-speed rail line through the Susa Valley north of Turin. They waved placards, saying, "No-TAV," using the initials for the railway project, which they fear will damage the Alpine region that is also the site of several Olympic venues.
"Our goal is to slow down the torch," said activist Claudio Robba, 25. "The Olympics represent a moment we can show the reality of Turin. It's an opportunity to oppose the waste of money spent on this that they could have invested in jobs."
Italian authorities, who have been bracing for violence from Islamic militants, are turning their attention increasingly to leftist, anti-globalization protesters who have promised to attempt to disrupt the Games.
"The risk we face is of a series of noisy protests from these groups -- in fact, they're already doing it," legislator Maurizio Gasparri, vice president of the parliamentary military intelligence committee, said.
Earlier in the week, Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said he worried more about the potential of chaos from "anarchists," as these demonstrators are known, than from Islamic terror groups.
"Unfortunately, these people [the anarchists] have already done very serious damage to the image of our country," Pisanu said.
Security, already tight with about 15,000 armed police and military troops patrolling the city, was increased again Thursday night as dignitaries began arriving in Turin for Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampia's gala dinner. Helicopters crossed the night skies and barricades were erected across streets.
The U.S. delegation will be led by First Lady Laura Bush, who earlier Thursday met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. He wished her a "peaceful time" as she attends the Games, which end Feb. 26.