The Olympic Torch comes to San Francisco

The controversy surrounding the Beijing Olympics came to San Francisco this week with the arrival of the Olympic Torch on it only North American stop on its world tour.

After some fiery protests in London and Paris, everyone was expecting something to happen here too.  The police fenced off the whole route along the Embarcadero as they expected supporters of the recent uprising in Tibet and protesters of all shapes and sizes (China, Burma, Darfur, take your pick) to be out en masse.  What I didn’t expect were the buses of Chinese "supporters" bussed in from as far away as Los Angeles by the Chinese Consulate.  Typical move by China, I wouldn’t expect anything less from the government – always turning a blind eye and reporting the news as they want to see it.  I was jogging by the Ferry Building at 6:30am in the morning (a good 7 hours before the torch was due to run past) and saw them setting up well in advance in all the most prominent locations.

At around 1:30pm I walked down to the Embarcadero from the office to watch the torch come past.  On my way down it had been announced that due to the protest the torch would not be run along the original route.  By the time I got to the Embarcadero there were thousands of very unhappy and dissatisfied people milling around, many touting their different causes (sometimes quite caustically).  It was all good stuff though (and pleasingly non-violent), and I for one was chuffed to see the wide-ranging support for the "Free Tibet" cause.  I’ve viewed first-hand the cultural dilution/destruction of ancient Tibet by the Han Chinese when I visited the Labrang Monastery up on the Tibetan Plateau (back in 2006 when I was backpacking the Silk Road), and it’s troubled and saddened me to hear Labrang and Xiahe in the news recently as one of the hotbeds of protest in China and Tibet.


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Darfur rates a mention.

Big props: fake tanks and giant peace doves.

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Welcome to San Francisco…

Back in the office soon thereafter, we caught word that city officials did the ol’ switcheroo and moved the torch route to another – less risky – route across the city.  As it was unannounced, when word got out that the torch was on the other side of Russian Hill, I watched from the 34th floor as literally thousands of people ran west down the street past the office to try and intercept it on its still unknown route.  A disappointing move on the part of the city officials I reckon to relent to Chinese pressure.

One Comment on “The Olympic Torch comes to San Francisco

  1. Sweet pictures Paul. You could always get a job as a photo journalist if you got sick of consulting.


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