On a sunny California day, amid controversy and protests, the Olympic torch made its way along some of the lesser known streets of San Francisco. Today's stop in the City by the Bay was to be the one and only torch relay stop in North America. After what happened in Paris earlier in the week, San Francisco officials did their best to keep protesters, spectators and even torch runners confused and on their toes to avoid the same sort of situation. The route was changed a multitude of times and the closing ceremony, scheduled to happen at Justin Herman Plaza, was canceled. Torch runners had to share their time with another person to ensure that all 70+ people would get a chance to hold the Olympic flame after the course distance was cut in half.
Local news channels provided nearly four hours of agonizing play-by-play coverage, even when nothing was happening. The media sensationalism might have seemed like overkill to some. But all the protesting and the torch relay actually happening was a big deal and people needed to hear about it.
My thoughts on the whole thing? I fully agree with Tibetan protesters who feel China's human rights policies need a serious overhaul. Hillary Clinton recently called on President Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, stating,"The violent clashes in Tibet and the failure of the Chinese government to use its full leverage with Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur are opportunities for presidential leadership." While this statement cannot be argued in my eyes, Bush's decision to boycott the ceremonies, if he chooses to do so, will have little or no political ramifications. Since his Iraq war blunders and foreign policy oddities, no one listens to, or takes the advice of our fearless Commander in Chief. Certainly no one in China. But still, I can see her point.
Now, if Senator Clinton called for a U.S. boycott of the entire games, THEN I'd have something to say. To bar Olympic caliber athletes from competing in the world's most prestigious games because of political reasons seems silly to me. I understand that by abstaining from participating, countries make a VERY clear statement about whatever their leaders feel strongly about, but for the athletes, that opportunity may only come around once. To take that away from those who have dedicated their lives to perfecting their sport in hopes of competing on the world's biggest stage seems crazy to me. Did those athletes have any sort of say in shaping their country's foreign policy? No, you say? Then why punish them by taking away the one thing they've worked so hard for? Aren't there better ways of making a political statement?
In a strange way, I almost feel like the recent attempts to halt the Olympic torch relay follow the same lines of crazy. I understand that the protesters want their message out there and thanks to the media coverage, they've succeeded. But to block something as pure as the Olympic flame, which symbolizes a time when politics were put on the back burner for the duration of the games, goes against the Olympic spirit. Make no mistake, I am not pro China. I'm just pro athlete. I'm pro fair competition. I'm all for an Olympic games free of political grievances.
I call for a separation of sports and state! Who's with me?