The 2008 Olympic Torch Relay will run until August 8, 2008, prior to the Games of the XXIX Olympiad. Plans for the relay were announced on April 26, 2007, in Beijing, China. The relay, with the theme “Journey of Harmony”, is expected to last 130 days and carry the torch 137,000 km (85,000 mi) — the longest distance of any Olympic torch relay.
After being lit at the birthplace of the Olympic Games in Olympia, Greece on March 24, the torch traveled to the Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens, and then to Beijing, arriving on March 31. From Beijing, the torch is following a route passing through six continents. The torch will visit cities along the Silk Road, symbolizing ancient links between China and the rest of the world. The relay will also include an attempt to carry the flame to the top of Mount Everest on the border of Nepal and Tibet, China from the Chinese side, which was closed specially for the event. 
In many cities along the route, the torch relay has been met by protesters representing a range of political issues, particularly those related to China’s human rights record, the recent unrest in Tibet, North Korean defectors, religious persecution and the political status of Taiwan, resulting in violence at various locations. These protests, which ranged from tens of thousands of people (from all sides) in San Francisco, to effectively none in Pyongyang, have forced the path of the torch relay to be changed or shortened on a number of occasions. The torch was extinguished by Chinese security officials several times during the Paris leg to prevent protestors from forcibly putting out the flame.
The protests in Europe were described as “despicable” by the Chinese government, condemning them as “deliberate disruptions…who gave no thought to the Olympic spirit or the laws of Britain and France” and who “tarnish the lofty Olympic spirit”, and vowed they would continue with the relay and not allow the protests to “impede the Olympic spirit”. Large-scale counter-protests by overseas Chinese and foreign-based Chinese nationals became prevalent in later segments of the relay.
Prompted by the chaotic torch relays in Europe and North America, the president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge described the situation as a “crisis” for the organization and stated that any athletes displaying Tibetan flags at Olympic venues could be expelled from the games, though he stopped short of cancelling the relay altogether despite calls to do so by some IOC members. The outcome of the relay will likely influence the IOC’s decision on whether or not to scrap global relays in future editions of the games.
The event was held in Ho Chi Minh City on April 29. Some 60 torchbearers carried the torch from the downtown Opera House to the Military Zone 7 Competition Hall stadium near Tan Son Nhat International Airport along an undisclosed route. Vietnam is involved in a territorial dispute with China (and other countries) for sovereignty of the Spratly and Paracel Islands; tensions have risen recently following reports the Chinese Government had a county-level city named Sansha in the disputed territories, resulting in anti-Chinese demonstrations in December 2007 in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. However to sustain its relationship with China the Vietnamese government has actively sought to head off protests during the torch relay, with Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng warning government agencies that “hostile forces” may try to disrupt the torch relay.
Prior to the rally seven anti-China protestors were arrested in Hanoi after unfurling a banner and shouting “Boycott the Beijing Olympics” through a loudhailer at a market. A Vietnamese American was deported for planning protests against the torch, while a prominent blogger Điếu Cày (real name Nguyễn Văn Hải) who blogged about protests around the world and who called for demonstrations in Vietnam was arrested on charges of tax evasion. Outside Vietnam, there were protests by overseas Vietnamese in Paris, San Francisco and Canberra. Lê Minh Phiếu, a torchbearer who is a Vietnamese law student studying in France wrote a letter to the president of the International Olympic Committee protesting China’s “politicisation of the Olympics”, citing maps of the torch relay at the official Beijing Olympic website depicting the disputed islands as Chinese territory and posted it on his blog. One day before the relay was to start, the official website appeared to have been updated to remove the disputed islands and dotted lines marking China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea.