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Playing hide & seek with torch

The Olympics torch had to take a detour and cut short to avoid clashes between Tibet supporters and Chinese groups, reports Umesh Raghuvanshi.

world Updated: Apr 10, 2008 23:11 IST
Umesh Raghuvanshi

The Olympics torch had to take a detour and cut short its originally planned journey under a veil of secrecy as a large crowd of protesters waited along its waterfront route and passions ran high with Tibetan supporters and local Chinese groups coming face-to-face and shouting at each other at many places in Golden Gate City.

A game of virtual hide and seek was witnessed on Wednesday as authorities decided to take the torch through a changed route away from the waiting people who had begun assembling on both sides of roads from early morning. After completing nearly halfway of the route under the cover of a human security shield authorities decided to take the torch to San Francisco International Airport instead of taking it to Justin Herman Plaza where a formal closing ceremony had been organised to bid it a formal goodbye.

Disappointment loomed large at Justin Herman Plaza as a police official informed them about the detour. “We are sorry. There is no point waiting. The torch is not going to come here,” the officer said.

As this was the torch’s only stop in North America, Tibetan protesters had come in not only from the US but also from Canada. A few minutes after starting its journey at the AT&T Park Mac Covey Cove the torch disappeared, took a detour and could be seen only after nearly two miles at Van Ness Avenue. At this point a torchbearer, Majora Carter, was reportedly removed from the relay when she displayed a Tibetan flag soon after being handed over the torch. At some places protesters tried to stop vehicles mistaking those with ones carrying the torch.

Mayor Gavin Newsom, under attack for the last-minute changes, defended his decision saying he had no choice. Many Tibetan supporters, however, claimed the decision was their moral victory.

A duel was witnessed when a group of Tibetan supporters began countering slogans raised by local Chinese groups. “We are not anti-China. We are for free Tibet,” they shouted as the opposite side raised slogans of “Beijing Olympics go, go, go” and “Tibet is free” and “Dalai is a liar”.