The journey of the Olympic torch
The Olympic torch has been lit in Olympia in Greece and the flame will be carried through many countries on five continents before the Olympics begin in Beijing in August. Protesters were there as they will be along many parts of the route. There were protests in London, in Paris and now in San Francisco. The organisers are planning to include Tibet and the summit of the world's highest mountain. The International Olympic Committee is to discuss whether to allow the international journey to continue after so much protest and so much security needed to allow the flame to make its journey.
Can it really be true that the police in London asked people to take off tee-shirts with slogans such as "Free Tibet" and not to display banners with messages such as "China stop the killing". Whatever happened to free speech and the right to peaceful protest?
As the Olympic flame passed through Paris, did the police there overstep the mark in taking Tibetan flags away from protesters? The interior minister Michele Alliot-Marie has asked for an internal investigation.
Maybe the Chinese government has made a big mistake by offering to host the Olympics, with all the attention that brings to China beyond the Olympic Stadium. Another big mistake could be to take the Olympic flame on its so-called Journey of Harmony. The organisers were warned by members of the International Olympic Committee not to take the torch on a long international journey.
Starting the journey at Olympia reminds us of the link with the ancient Olympics but it was in 1936 that the ceremony was brought in, making the journey that year to Berlin, when Hitler and the Nazi Party were in power.
I see that the issue of the Olympics in relation to human rights is getting headlines on television and in print at least in the UK. People are getting fired up, writing on various blogs on this site and leaving comments on mine.
Amnesty's official policy has been mentioned, that the organisation does not favour a boycott of the Beijing Olympics. Even if you are not in favour of a complete boycott, what about signing a petition to the UK Prime Minister to boycott the opening ceremony? Gordon Brown now says that he will not attend the opening ceremony but that it is not a boycott. I say why not use every tool in the box to try to make the Chinese government behave? The toolbox is labelled "Peaceful Protest".
Update, 5 April 2008: Today's Guardian carries a report on the front page about protests in Sichuan province in which as many as 8 Tibetans may have been killed.
10 April 2008: The route of the torch in San Francisco was changed to avoid protesters. The route was kept secret even from torch-bearers. Andrew Michael showed a small Tibetan flag on his hand while carrying the Olympic torch but another torch-bearer found that the Chinese minders were not keen on her showing a Tibetan flag.
11 April: Protests again in Buenos Aires. Changing continents for the torch relay does not seem to work as a way of trying to escape from the critics.
President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, has just announced that the Olympic torch will visit Tibet.
16 April: Protests are now expected in India where there are 100 000 Tibetans living in exile. In Pakistan the Olympic torch relay passed off without incident but with hardly anyone allowed anywere near.
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