The Olympic flame is following me around. It arrived in Beijing last Monday, as I was leaving town, and by way of Kazakhstan, Turkey, Russia, London and Paris it will reach San Francisco in two days.
A small contingent of Uighur people protested in Istanbul along the route of the relay, calling for the independence of Xinjiang, the majority-Muslim province of China known for its delicious lamb dishes.
But all hell broke loose in London, with protests (mostly about Tibet and about the Sudan) along the entire length of the relay. Reportedly, one protester charged at the torch-bearer with a fire extinguisher, but missed, dousing the police escort with foam instead. The general idea of the torch relay is that the flame, lit in Greece, should be alight for the whole time of the relay, and until the opening ceremony in Beijing in August. Thus a set of ten lanterns lighted with the “original Greek fire” travel along the relay route, so that if the torch goes out, it can be relighted with original Greek fire. The flame(s) travel with 12 Chinese security guards, who also run along the relay route. If, like me, you thought that men in tracksuits and fanny packs could not possibly look menacing, you were wrong.
In Paris, the torch went off, and had to be relighted, at least five times. Finally, for a good part of the relay, the torch moved in a bus. Notice the French police escorting the bus on rollerblades.
With due respect, nobody does street theater and political protests like San Franciscans, so I wonder what’s going to happen on Wednesday.
As a warm-up, today three activists climbed the suspension cables of the Golden Gate bridge, and unfurled two banners, one reading “One World, One Dream,” the motto of the 2008 Olympics, and another reading “Free Tibet 08.”
Tomorrow, there will be all-day events at Civic Center, which will include a march back and forth the Chinese consulate, which is on Laguna and Geary, quite far from the Civic Center (this won’t be good for traffic in the city). Some of the events will feature noted Tibetan Buddhist Richard Gere.