The Olympic Torch relay has turned into a fiasco.
In London yesterday, protesters tried to grab and put out the torch, and 37 people were arrested. Today in Paris, it seems that officials had to temporarily extinguish it — twice — and put it on a bus. Via Bloomberg:
The Paris leg of the relay was accompanied by 48 police cars, 65 motorcycles, 100 policemen on roller blades, and 100 jogging firemen whose aim was to avert protests such as those that held up the flame’s progress through London yesterday.
Robert Menard, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based rights group that disrupted the lighting of the Olympic flame in Greece on March 24, called the Paris security measures “shameful.” He called in a statement for protests that won’t block the relay.
Shameful. Great word for this situation, but its applicability is hardly limited to the Paris security measures. What a mess… and oh joy! there’s more to come, because the next stop is San Francisco. You just know that’s going to go well.
Protesters are upset about China’s crackdown on Tibet, its stance on Darfur, its human rights record, its suppression of free speech… pick your pet issue. If it’s not included in my list, I’m sure it should be. Not of these issues, though, are “new” news. Even the sad situation in Tibet is just more of the same.
China’s record didn’t suddenly take a downturn; the government there has been suppressing and abusing for more than fifty years.
And the IOC surely knew all of this when they awarded the 2008 Summer Games to Beijing. But now they’re upset? Ludicrous.
[International Olympic Committee president Jacques] Rogge spoke in Beijing after protesters sought to highlight the Tibet crisis and other human rights issues surrounding China during the London leg of the Olympic torch relay on Sunday, with further demonstrations expected in Paris on Monday.
“The International Olympic Committee has expressed its serious concern and called for a rapid, peaceful resolution of Tibet,” Rogge said in a speech at the beginning of a three-day meeting of National Olympic Committee heads here.
“Violence for whatever reason is not compatible with the values of the torch relay or the Olympic Games.”
Perhaps they hoped that shining the international spotlight on China’s record would force some positive changes there — and that’s certainly a laudable goal. However, their decision has set up a situation that is sullying the Games themselves, and undermines the lifetime efforts of athletes all over the world.
Officials may as well pack that torch up and mail it on to Beijing, because it certainly doesn’t stand for anything Olympic this year.
Related post at TMV, here.