Clash of the Titans: Torch Relay Sparks Olympic Struggle for Human Rights
Lessons from the Paris and London protests against the 2008 Beijing Olympics prompted San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to change the torch relay route just minutes before it began. Thousands of protesters rushed onto the streets of San Francisco to get a glimpse of the Olympic torch relay only to find that the ceremony had been truncated and the torch had been taken onto a plane headed to Buenos Aires, Argentina this past Wednesday.
On Monday, April 7, three people were arrested after scaling the Golden Gate Bridge to place a pro-Tibet banner that read, “One world. One dream. Free Tibet.” That same day, Newsom announced that if the protests got out of control, a change to the torch relay could take place.
At 4 a.m. on Tuesday, April 8, the Olympic torch arrived at the city gates guarded by top security aides. Meanwhile, the protests continued near City Hall. Finally, on Wednesday, April 9, thousands of spectators, protesters and activists poured onto the streets of San Francisco to voice their opinions on boycotting the Olympics.
Emotions ran high, cloaking the crowds as they waited. Newsom must have felt the pressure. Just as the relay was about to start, the route was changed. The six-mile relay was cut in half, and the flame was taken onto a plane without displaying it for all to see.
Senator Hillary Clinton was right when she urged President George W. Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies of the upcoming Olympics. Clinton is not alone. Many Americans feel that China does not deserve the right to carry the banner of the Olympic Games.
As the host of the Olympics, China tarnishes the meaning of the games when thousands of Tibetans are dying in its backyard. The recent clash between the Chinese state police and the Tibetans in Lhasa further exacerbates the problem.
Chinese officials blame the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, for organizing the riots in Lhasa even though there is no evidence that supports this claim. How can one feel certain that the Summer Olympics will be violence-free as China tightens its security against Tibet, especially if the International Olympic Committee plans to carry the torch to Mt. Everest?
China’s list of human-rights violations also includes importing Sudanese oil, selling Kartoum weapons and supplying weapons to the Janjaweed, Sudan’s Arab militia. The massacre will continue and blood will spill as China continues to take less aggressive steps to stop the war.
China has angered the world with its atrocities, and people have continued to push for human rights. Protesters deserve the right to free speech, especially when it comes to voicing their opinions against inhumane acts. No one can stop activists, protestors and organizations from voicing their opinions on boycotting the Summer Olympics