Wednesday, April 09, 2008
The Great Olympic Let-Down
I joined the crowds of people waiting expectantly at McCovey Cove (corner of King and 3rd Streets, opposite AT&T Park), for their chance to see the Olympic Flame. Thousands of people lined the streets on every side. Red flags waved. The centre of the street was clear, and about 3 metres from the pavement on each side was a line of police. To say there was a massive police presence would be an understatement.
Hundreds more police stood in a line blocking the road to the bridge. Pro-Tibet protesters waved signs and chanted slogans, marching up and down the back of the pavement behind the spectators, Tibetan flags waving. They were countered by Pro-China supporters, waving giant red Chinese flags. A lone man in a Hawaiian shirt carried a sign which said 'Free Hawaiians".
We waited... and waited... after 45 minutes, the police started to receive riot helmets. They were carrying long riot batons. It was scary - people around me debated whether it was going to turn violent, although we weren't that close to the protesters. We waited some more. Policemen (and a few women) marched up and down the street. People chanted. A policewoman handed out muesli bars to all the policemen. The red flags waved.
Police Officer munchies (in the box) - I heard someone say that!
We waited some more. It was 2.10, and the ceremony and run was supposed to start at 1pm. Then a rumour went through the crowd - the relay route had been shifted to Van Ness because of the protesters. I needed to go back to work, so I didn't have time to get over there. I'm really angry. So are a lot of other people - the original newspaper headline was "Switcheroo leaves city fuming". One of my friends waited for 2 hours at the Justin Herman plaza at the Ferry Building, and the torch never showed up. I waited over an hour until I had to be back at work.
The Chinese Government is claiming this was a success, even though they essentially held the march where nobody could see it. The organizers then cut the relay short and packed the torch onto a plane without even a formal goodbye. It was a huge failure, and there are a lot of angry ordinary people now. They effectively cancelled the whole thing "because of the protesters", but everyone else missed out.
Final parting shot.