Thursday, April 10, 2008
I've been had. Along with thousands of other people who went to see the Olympic Torch Relay in San Francisco yesterday, the only North American stop on its 85,000-mile trip around the world.
The Mayor and the President of the Olympic Committee changed the route and even provided a decoy torch, which completely defeated the purpose of it being here in the first place. The actual torch was only seen for a few minutes before it was transported to San Francisco International Airport for its trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, the next leg of its tour.
Desmond Tutu was in San Francisco to receive the Outspoken Award from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission for his work on behalf of gay and lesbian rights. In accepting the rights award Tuesday evening, Tutu questioned why the Anglican Church (which includes the Episcopal Church in the United States) is "obsessed with this particular issue of human sexuality when people all over are facing massive problems: poverty, disease, corruption, conflict."
He also attended a candlelight vigil the night before the torch relay, but we didn't get to see him at the ending ceremonies because few knew where they were being held.
Richard Gere was in town as a longtime supporter of freedom for Tibet, and Chairman of the International Campaign for Tibet.
He said: "This torch is going through China and the world co-opting the idea of harmony to push a political position. The harmonious society (Chinese president) Hu Jintao talks about is a fraud. There can be no harmony without freedom of religion and culture."
Gere also read a message from the Dalai Lama, reminding the protesters to steer clear of any violence during the torch relay: "It is the legitimate right of every Tibetan to struggle for their freedom and rights. On the other hand, it would be futile and not helpful to anyone if we do something that would create hatred in the minds of the Chinese people."
We didn't see him either.
We did see a man take off all his clothes on the platform which had been set up to fool us into believing that the ceremonies would take place there. He was quickly whisked away by two policemen.
We did not see what for me would have been the highlight of the torch relay: a woman runner from New York who suddenly pulled a small Tibetan flag out of her sleeve and waved it before she was pushed out of the race by several Chinese runners.
Everything that could be protested was represented: Tibet, Burma, Darfur, Sudan.
Here is a sampling of photos I took. There will be more on my other blog, "The World Around Me."