Thursday, April 10, 2008

Right Time, Wrong Place

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."


RED MOJO said...

This whole torch thing is being handled so ridiculously. Tricking people, sneaking it around under armed guard.
Doesn't it defeat the point of the torch?

Anonymous said...

Great photos of the day, though.

The CEO said...

Your photography is impressive! The idea of the Olympics of people coming together regardless of their differences seems to have been lost on the Chinese. is is reminiscent of the Hungarians destroying the Russians in water polo in 1956 after the Russians crushed the Hungarian Revolution. A sad time regardless, both then and now.

Jonah K. Haslap said...

Wow, what a serious post about a serious topic. I'm seriously depressed now. Good thing I'm also drunk.

Nick said...

It must have been frustrating and infuriating that the torch relay was a total fraud and deception, but on the other hand it seems like a victory that the authorities decided it was impossible to use the real torch. Meaning the opposition was actually more effective in SF than in London or Paris. And protesters were also out in force on the streets to spread their message. A good day's work if you ask me.

Christy said...

Wow, this is just crazy. I don't even know what to say, all I can do is shake my head.

Rebecca said...

Your entry gave me chills. Chilling to realize how far we have to come to fully realize our humanity. Sad, too, that helping the Chinese save face, we sacrificed our own.

Anonymous said...

Tricking the people isn't new, but it saddens/angers me just the same.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I think it does, yes.


Thank you!


It's really too bad the Olympics can't be about the athletes, but when one country takes over another, everything becomes politicized.

It has taken the peaceful Tibetans a very long time to revolt, and the world should help them.


Yes, you shouldn't suffer.


I saw a few minor skirmishes but mostly it seemed that people were respectful of each other.

But do I believe all the opposition will make any difference? Not really. I read somewhere that China is prepared to lose 9 out of 10 of its citizens if that's what it takes to accomplish world domination.


Sometimes that's all anyone can do.


SF was chosen by the Olympic Committee for its huge Asian population, but apparently they didn't realize that more than a few of them are displaced Tibetans.


I thought the whole idea of bringing the torch here was so people could see it.

Frankly, I was far more interested in seeing the beautiful Tibetan and African people in their native dress, but seeing the Olympic torch would have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

seventh sister said...

Great shots. I think I could spend an extended amount of time in SF. Too bad about the torch route. I think the Olympics will go the way of Miss America if the committee does not get its act together.

On a limb with Claudia said...

You are a horrible tease. I saw you say that you saw a guy strip and that there were pictures below .... AND I don't see any naked guys. Where's the naked guy??? Sigh.

tapping my foot


I do love San Francisco! Thanks for sharing.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Is Miss America being held in China, too?



Sorry, no pic of the naked man. It happened too fast, but I did notice that he was smiling as they carted him away.

the walking man said...

Was it only the smile you noticed or ...hmmm how to put this...were you to far away to notice anything else. ha ha ha ha ha ha

I really feel for your disappointment and read of this debacle in the MSM.
I still wonder why the world feels that it must appease Chinese sentiment while they have no reciprocity. Oh well Hearts it is not my world just my earth.

Peace...if you can find it in you to accept it from me.


heartinsanfrancisco said...


I was close enough to see everything, but his smile was the most remarkable part of him.

Of course I accept peace from you, and all who offer it. Thank you. We sorely need more peace in the world.

Echomouse said...

No torch and no Gere? That's just not right.

I agree with sorta defeats the spirit of the torch and olympics if they can't show it en route. I really think they ought to just cancel the China olympics, except the athletes who worked so hard don't deserve that. Wish they'd never picked China to host.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Even with the duplicity, the torch protest was well covered by the media.

Bishop TuTu is, as usual, on target. When a church is more concerned about folks sexual orientation than with poverty, hunger, oppression, genocide, and war, my theology informs me that it has ceased to be the Body of Christ.

Sienna said...

It' is so difficult to contemplate? Does the Olympic Committee think human rights will never be a non issue?

Are we to think Hitler sitting and peacocking himself at the Olympics in Berlin happened, therefore free run for any other atrocity minded behaviour is okay too?

Decent and caring people will always speak out against wrongs...

I am so with the Dalai Lama and brave people of Tibet on this. Kinda (in my mind anyway) like the feeling of sitting down to supper with some one that beats his family.

Did you see Kevin Rudd (our Aussie leader)stand up and tell the Chinese about their shocking violations of human rights toward the Tibet people...(and I think he said it in Mandarin Chinese, which he speaks fluently!)

Message->over and understood!!

I love the decency and humanity of Kevin Rudd's actions (and words) this last 5 months.

AND KD Lang who is over here, that woman has guts!! Caught her after some singing and what she had to say publically (support for Tibet) was so well put, (just peaceful) but heartfelt powerful message..

heartinsanfrancisco said...


No torch, no Richard Gere, no Bishop Tutu. What a rip.

It seems inevitable that someday, China will control the world.

St. Nick,

As soon as a church judges some people to be more acceptable in God's eyes than others, it has ceased to be a legitimate church, in my view.


I envy you your Kevin Rudd. I wish that my country had a leader of intelligence, depth and charisma. Rudd speaks fluent Chinese while Bush doesn't even speak decent English.

kd lang is great! And I like your analogy -- holding the Olympics, which is supposed to symbolize peace and unity, in a country with a notorious history of human rights violations is like sitting down to dinner with a wife-beater.

Angela said...

Deception. Oh, bother.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I guess deception is a given when anything political is involved.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful images, I am just sorry you weren't given the opportunity to see more so you could photograph more.

Actually, I am more sorry that there had to be a need to protest in the first place.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It's always a cause for sorrow when there are human rights abuses to protest.

I saw some beautiful faces and that was worth so much more than a silly torch.

Mariposa said...

I could understand if they change the route last minute...but to create a decoy?! Well, it did certainly defeats the purpose! Glad to know that Gere is supporting such initiatives!

Enjoyed your photos!!!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Richard Gere is a big supporter of Tibet and is a lot more than a pretty face. I would have liked to hear him speak.