It could be funny, if not for all the human suffering involved, the Olympic torch controversy as it winds its way past my neighborhood. I didn't get to go out and cheer or sneer. I had to work. There was no silly bits of video of the flame being doused by a fire extinguisher, or fearful roller-skating police putting out the fire before some zealous demonstrator got his mitts on it. That was London and Paris. Here in San Francisco, they simply played hide and seek with the thousands of spectators and demonstrators.
Keeping the route secret kept disruptions and participation to a minimum. At the opening ceremony, the first torchbearer took the flame from a lantern brought to the stage and held it aloft before running into a waterfront warehouse. A motorcycle escort departed, but the torchbearer was nowhere in sight. Officials drove the Olympic torch about a mile inland and handed it off to two runners away from protesters and media, and they began jogging toward the Golden Gate Bridge, in the opposite direction of the crowds waiting for it. More confusion followed, with the torch convoy apparently stopped near the bridge before heading southward to the airport.
Six years ago, when the Winter Olympics were being held in Salt Lake City, no less a personage than Willie Mays helped carry the torch through the streets of San Francisco. Coca-Cola and Chevrolet sponsored the whole show. It was a big deal. Now there is shame and acrimony.
A lot of questions have been raised since this whole brouhaha began. Why wasn't there more outrage when China was first being considered as a site for these Olympics? Where were the protesters when the torch was headed to its destination in that human rights question mark, the United States of America? Will any of this fuss solve the crisis in Tibet?
"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well." And so the fight continues, in the streets and on television screens around the world.