Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Olympic Torch and Chinese Thugs touch down in US

Updated::4/08/08::see bold::
CNN reports that the Olympic Torch has landed in the US and is in an undisclosed location in San Francisco ahead of the North American leg of the international tour, two days after incrdible protests while the flame was in London and Paris.

The European tour brought to light some unsavory aspects of the torch tour as Chinese handlers, without any legal authority from the respective host countries manhandled not only protestors but also the police assigned to protect the flame and the athelete's carrying it. From the UK Mail:

Lord Coe last night condemned the army of Chinese "thugs" who accompanied the Olympic torch relay through London. The head of London's 2012 Games described as "horrible" the burly henchmen who barged their way through the capital, shoving the public and even police out of the way.
His trenchant remarks followed those of former Blue Peter presenter and torchbearer Konnie Huq, who revealed the Chinese minders barked orders at her and pushed her arm up to hold the flame higher.

Reuter's quotes Ms. Huq from both the Mail article and BBC4 as saying about the 'Thugs':

"They were very robotic, very full on, and actually I noticed them having skirmishes with our own police and the Olympic authorities before our leg of the relay, which was confusing," she was quoted as telling BBC Radio 4.
"They were barking orders at me, like 'Run! Stop!', and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, who are these people?'," the Daily Mail quoted her as saying. "They kept pushing my hand up higher when I was holding the torch, so they were...interesting."

Protest organizers in San Francisco have insisted that their demonstrations shall be peaceful including an alternative torch relay for Tibetan independence today. But if things do turn ugly, how will the US respond to these peculiar protectors of the flame? They've demonstrated an inability to work with security details in previous countries.

The bigger question though will the relay continue, will they hold it in the future. Beijing's relay is the most ambitious relay for the torch thus far, dubbed (ironically) by the Chinese as the "Harmonious Journey," the relay thus far has been anything but. CNN quotes one organizer saying:

An Olympic committee member suggested Monday that the public relations nightmare that has followed the Olympic flame on its way to the Summer Games in Beijing may make 2008 the last time such an ambitious global torch relay is attempted.

This perhaps is appropriate once one consider's the origins of the torch relay, which sadly come from the 1936 Olympics and the Nazi Regime of Germany. According to Libby Purves with the Times London "Hitler invented it in 1936 with the torch coming from Greece to Germany as a pan-Aryan gesture." Her opinion of Nazi Germany's purposes behind the initial multi-country marathon resonate well with the folks at Der Spiegel who say about the flame:

"Ever since China was awarded the Olympic Games and pursued them as a national prestige project, the flame no longer stands for fairness and peace. It now also symbolizes a repressive regime which battles ambitions for autonomy like in Tibet, which hurts human rights and suppresses dissenting opinions."

and again as Spiegel quotes Die Welt:

"The Olympic flame is intended to demonstrate peace and solidarity among the peoples. In ancient times lighting the torch marked the period during which weapons were put down during the Games and acts of war were forbidden. The fact that it was the Nazis who reintroduced it in 1936 shows how susceptible such a symbolic act is to propaganda. China's dictatorship can't be compared with Hitler's regime. But one has to welcome the fact that demonstrators are now preventing the Communists in Beijing from using the torch relay to present themselves like Leni Riefenstahl did, with terrifying mastery, in her propaganda film 'Olympia.' The torch relay was intended as a triumph but has become a gauntlet for the Chinese -- and given their stubborn attitude in the Tibetan conflict, they only have themselves to blame."

Chinese officials of course are not taking blame and are mortified at the actions of demonstrators, blaming it solely on Tibeten Separatists. Not only that, out of fear foreign protesters might spill into China, the authorities have effectively closed the borders. Restricting entry visas and suspended short term visa's from Hong Kong according to AsiaNews. Olympic Committe persons and the Corporate Sponsors of the events who have pumped millions into the games are not responding to the demonstrations but urging all to restrain themselves in the light of what the Olympics stand for. Anne Appleton with the Washington Post has an interesting perspective on just what the Olympics stand for and it's worth reading as our world leaders ponder the appropriate response to their native constituency's outcry heading into the summer games.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: