Sunday, 6 April 2008

Flaming Olympic Torch Farce

The authorities have managed to make the Olympic Torch relay a complete farce. Any respect we might have once had for Gordon Brown or the Olympics torch relay has gone. It is meant to symbolise the ability of sport to bring together people from around the world, but today in London this has become a shambles.

Firstly the torch was surrounded by a group of Chinese security, why give them authority in the UK? What if they had assaulted a pro Tibetan protester, imagine the international court case that would result. It should have been obvious with minutes, if not before, that the route was lined with protesters willing to be arrested to stop the torch relay. At that point the authorities should have put the silly thing on a bus and just driven it to downing street, put the Chinese security on a slow boat home and stopped the terrible publicity that resulted. The tradition only goes back to the Nazi Berlin games, and its a propane torch, not a traditional Greek one.

Instead the process dragged on for hours, a series of celebrities carried the torch, were met with protesters, stopped then started again. The celebrities gave interviews that were often sympathetic to the Tibetans, but their reputations will still be damaged.

One protester tried to snatch the torch from former Blue Peter host Konnie Huq. She said "I always said my taking part in the procession doesn't mean I condone China in any way," "I believe in the Olympic values, the Olympic ideals... it's just unfortunate that China has such a terrible track record when it comes to human rights and they are the host nation."

Sir Steve Redgrave revealed he had been urged to boycott the event, but didn't. Among the planned torch-bearers were round-the-world sailor Ellen MacArthur, runner Kelly Holmes, tennis player Tim Henman, Arsenal footballer Theo Walcott, rugby player Kenny Logan, rower Ed Coode, cricketer Kevin Pietersen, violinist Vanessa Mae, singers the Sugababes, rugby coach Clive Woodward and heptathlete Denise Lewis.

Several dropped out; comedian Francesca Martinez, the UK's top badminton player, Richard Vaughan, and India's football captain, Bhaichung Bhutia, have all announced they will not participate in the relay. Mr Vaughan said he wanted to express his anger at Beijing's policy on Darfur. "Being an economic power, they have a responsibility to help stop humanitarian crises and I don't feel that China is doing that," he added. Ms Martinez said she supported the Tibetan cause.

Gordon Brown greeted the torch outside Number 10 despite coming under pressure to boycott the parade and the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony. However he did not hold it, managing to appear dithering and indecisive.

And why take the torch from Wembley to the Docklands anyway? Isn't it meant to go from Greece to China? Did they get lost?

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