The Coca-Cola Co. will continue to sponsor the torch relay as part of the run-up to the summer Olympics in Beijing, despite protesters opposed to China's policies in Tibet.

The torch relay has attracted protestors in Greece, Istanbul, London and Paris. The flame started its 85,000-mile journey on 24 March from Ancient Olympia in Greece.

Speaking to just-drinks today (18 April) a spokesperson for Coca-Cola said: "We certainly understand that the Olympics offers a global stage that's attractive to those who might use it to air issues, but as an Olympic partner, we will call on those special interest groups to use the Olympics to positively engage with the world."

Coca-Cola chairman and CEO Neville Isdell said in a recent meeting with shareholders that the relay "symbolised openness" and "hope" and that he didn't believe that stopping the torch run was the right thing to do for the longterm.

The spokesperson added: "Coca-Cola is proud of its association with the Olympic Games. It's one of the world's last truly unifying events. Coca-Cola is the longest continuous corporate partner of the Olympics. We've seen, first-hand, the positive impact that the Olympics has upon athletes, a positive impact on most countries and certainly the inspiration that billions of spectators around the world receive. For 80 years we have supported the Olympic values. These values are needed more today than ever."

The International Olympic Committee has said it will review plans for the remainder of the Beijing Olympic torch relay and has considered stopping the international portion of the event for future games.

The relay is expected to end in China on 4 May. The Beijing Olympics will begin on 8 August.