What is the Olympic torch doing in the U.S. anyway? Today, in San Francisco, with the torch protected by Chinese paramilitary, we could have a near riot on our hands as activists attempt to disrupt the torch relay as protest against China’s human rights record and the violence in Tibet.
I worked on the original event, known in 1984 as the AT&T Olympic Torch Relay. I was on the periphery doing odd jobs, not one of the dedicated team members who gave up six months of their lives to ensure a smooth handover of the torch in each city while generating tons of publicity as they traveled across and around the United States. It was a big idea and a huge success. But it was for America and Americans, at least as I remember it. I recall getting choked up at one of the wrap-up meetings as film highlights of the months long relay were shown to the sounds of Ray Charles singing America the Beautiful.
To be true to the torch relay concept, and not make it a perfunctory, hollow attempt to make China look friendly and worldly, shouldn’t the torch be traveling through the villages and cities of China to generate patriotism and support for their athletes?