[Epoch Times]

Athletes ran and rowed the Olympic torch through the streets and docks of Buenos Aires on Friday as police kept small groups of pro- and anti-China protesters apart along the eight-mile route.

Chinese guards running in formation around the torch deflected at least one water balloon thrown at the flame from crowds of flag-waving protesters in front of the pink presidential palace.

Activists protesting China’s rule of Tibet have pledged peaceful demonstrations but said they would not try to put out the torch during its Buenos Aires relay.

The torch, touring the world ahead of the Olympic Games in Beijing in August, has been a magnet for protests over China policies, in particular its crackdown last month on unrest in Tibet.

In Buenos Aires, Olympic medalist Carlos Espinola, a yachtsman and windsurfer, was the first of 80 people scheduled to carry the torch on the Argentine relay.

After the first stretch through the streets of a riverside neighborhood, torchbearers carried the flame onto a shell and rowed it down the Puerto Madero docks, which are lined with expensive restaurants and bars.

Before the relay started, despite some shouting between pro- and anti-China groups, there were no clashes and police moved quickly to keep the two sides apart.