An Unwelcome Olympic Torch?

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Next week the Olympic torch makes its only stop in North America... On the streets of San Francisco. It's a symbolic trip along several miles of the city's waterfront, before the Olympic flame makes its way to Beijing for the 2008 Summer Games. Not surprisingly, the appearance of the Olympic symbol has caused a bit of a stir in the city. San Francisco is known for its often liberal politics, and for its Chinese-American population. So, in a year when Beijing faces criticism and protests over its human rights record, involvement in Sudan, and actions in Tibet, the city is split. Some welcome the torch relay, and plan to honor the visit. Others plan to protest. And there are those who don't want the torch in their city at all. We'll talk with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom today, and let you have your say: Should the torch be welcomed in San Francisco? Should it be allowed at all? And, if so, what kinds of protests are appropriate?

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Unless the US teams totally boycotts the Olympic Games, these small scale demonstrations are like a needle in the haystack as far as getting your point to Beijing about its human rights violations! Historically these kinds of demonstrations have done nothing to change Beijing politics. It's a waste of time and a waste of taxpayers' money spent on police (SFPD), clean up, etc.

Sent by Homayoun Samadi | 2:27 PM | 4-3-2008

Why nobody is acknowledging the fact that there was violent protest in Tibet. What would US has acted if there was violent protest in LA? It is totally unfair to China

Sent by Jason | 2:46 PM | 4-3-2008

The Olympics are by definition political! It is a nationalistic competitive sporting event. Centered around countries competing against countries for the most "wins."

This flagrant display of jingoism is and should be up for political scrutiny. It is not just about "sport" as so many people want us to believe. It is about competition, flag-waving and a "we are better then you are!"

-Portland, Oregon

Sent by Scott Millar | 3:05 PM | 4-3-2008

It is a misnomer to label the ongoing debate as pro-Tibet and anti-Tibet. The protesters are a separatist movement, they do not speak for all Tibetan people, who have gained much progress in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and the other areas of China with large population of Tibetans, ever since the extremely brutal regime of the feudal rulers???led by the Dalai Lama???fled to exile in 1959.
There must be more coverage of both sides to this story, including the financing by the National Endowment for Democracy for all the Tibetan separatist organizations, which is fueling the international propaganda campaign against China, and coordinating the international protests. Also the unsubstantiated claims by the Tibetan separatists of hundreds of people being killed by China. As far as can be seen in all the media of any source, there is no proof, no names or other evidence of this. That does not mean that some have not died, but these claims are being propagated in order to add to the hysteria, and divert attention from the rioters in Tibet who killed 19 people just for being of the Han nationality.
I would recommend the reading of "The Making of Modern Tibet" by A. Tom Grunfeld, which has many documented sources of information, for a more objective analysis of the situation.

When I see George W. Bush and other U.S. officials denouncing China about "democracy" I can't help but think about the greatest crime being committed today, the more than two million Iraqis and 4,000 GIs who have died in Iraq, in the name of "freedom."

Sent by Gloria, San Francisco | 3:07 PM | 4-3-2008

Many people are in favor of the Olympic Torch, and the Olympics in general based on the fact that the Olympics are supposed to be about the Athletes and countries coming together in peace and friendly athletic competition.

However, what this argument fails to take into account is that participation in the Olympics depends on already being from a politically and economically stable country. The argument that the Olympics is about peace disregards the fact that counties such as Sudan and Tibet are not be able to participate in the Olympics because of direct actions on the part of the country hosting the Olympics - China.

I am in favor of boycotting the Olympics because China does not support the rights of these countries to participate. Has China worked to invite atheletes from Darfur? Has China worked to support the participation of the 1000 people held in prison in Tibet for simply voicing their political views? No - China has determined who should be allowed to participate in the 'peaceful games' by thowing thousand of potential participants in prison, or starving thousands of potential participants in Darfur.

Remember that the Olympics is not an athletic competition between the best athletes in the world. The Olympics is a athletic competition between the athletes in the world who come from countries with stable political systems, money to fund athletes and a political system that allows participation.

If China is responsible for creating the situation in which countries are not able to participate, then they should be willing to accept censure and boycott for creating an unfair Olympic spirit.

Sent by Heidi | 3:12 PM | 4-3-2008

What bothers me is the amount of money China will make from the Olympics. It may not be a "political" event, but it is China's government who will benefit the most.
I have studied the China/Tibet struggle for 20 years and have read some horrible accounts of murder, rape, torture and death camps. Would all those who say the Olympics should be left out of politics feel the same if the event was held in Nazi controlled Germany? I hope not but it sure sounds like it.

Sent by Sari Nichols | 3:16 PM | 4-3-2008

Ironic, that the Tibetan Flags were all "made in China."

Sent by John Rupert | 2:07 AM | 4-10-2008

This comment is for Sari Nichols. Perhaps Ms. Nichols was absent the day she should have been taught that the 1936 Olympics were held in Nazi Germany.

Sent by John Rupert | 2:15 AM | 4-10-2008

The protest definitely made the tension palpable. The pro-China groups and the pro-Tibetan groups got quite heated with each other. Check out this streaming webcam footage we shot from the missle of the protest: http://www.seero.com/broadcaster/David

Sent by Justin Cutillo | 2:02 PM | 4-11-2008

The spirit of the Games is highly contagious, even to opposing leaders of Nations. I spent nearly 8 years aspiring to become a US Olympic Cyclist and though I fell short of my dream, I can assure you that the good among athletes and Nations that athletes can initiate at the games is of far greater contribution than in boycotting the cause with anger. It's for Nations to come together in fair competition no matter what their differences may be - its a chance for everyone to see we all require to be on an even playing field. This type of public exposure on worldwide television can mend shattered mountains and change hostile minds. Please don't boycott the Olympic Games and give them a chance.

Sent by John Rupert - SoCal | 3:40 AM | 4-14-2008

I'm so amazed that so many people have forgotten the days that Adolf Hitler refused to congratulate Cornelius Johnson and Jesse Owens.

Sent by ps | 2:53 PM | 4-16-2008

Stop wasting tax payers' money on supporting Tibetan Separatist, Dalai Lama and his allies are just rubbish dumped by Chinese people !!

Sent by Fliex | 7:52 AM | 4-30-2008