Which brings up a good question: so what?
It's the Olympic torch, and odds are that there's going to be a big demonstration or two. This is the only stop in North America for the symbolic run of the torch to the Olympics, and it's in a city that could be called the City of Causes.
Free Tibet, The People's Republic of China, Meet in San FranciscoOne of the demonstrations will be by people who don't like China's treatment of Tibet: a country that China calls Xizang, and says is a Chinese province. The Chinese government has a point: They conquered Tibet in 1951, so I suppose they can call it Mahjong, if they want to. I don't think Tibetans are half so upset about the name change, as they are about living an occupied territory.
San Francisco authorities, understandably enough, don't want another flameout like the one in Paris. Apparently the last croissant crumbled "Paris experienced after parliamentarians rolled out a banner backing human rights." That's when, as Reuters put it: "The flame was put onto a bus and driven down to the final stage of the relay in southern Paris."
I doubt that San Francisco city hall wants people to read coverage of their city's torch run that reads like Reuter's Paris coverage: "Television showed one protester lying in the road, his face smeared with blood. 'We want free Tibet' he shouted." ("Olympic flame falters on chaotic Paris visit" Reuters (Apr 7, 2008))
And, they're taking sensible precautions to see that the People's Republic of China and the Olympic torch get a smooth run through their city: "San Francisco braces for Olympic torch protests" CNN (April 9, 2008): "Police officers' vacations have been canceled. Mayor Gavin Newsom has said that the route along the waterfront -- already cut from eight to six miles -- could be changed up to and even during the run itself."
Another good question: What, if anything, does this have to do with the War on Terror?
The War on Terror: It's All About America and the Middle East, Right?Assuming that the War on Terror is a regional conflict, involving a unilateral American offensive against a few Middle Eastern nations, nothing.
I think that this is a wider conflict, deeply involved in Mid East politics, culture, and beliefs, but involving countries around the world. I've suggested that odd alliances like what's apparently developing between Russia and Iran are a contemporary parallel to 'Aryan' Germany and sincerely non-Aryan Japan's cooperation during WWII.
And China, if not actively engaged in the War on Terror, seems to be taking advantage of the situation. Aside from continuing interest in southeast Asia, quite a few of America's problems with malware and hacker attacks track back to China.
For the sake of people who are involved in the Olympics, I hope that San Francisco has covered the security aspects of the torch run.
One of the planned runners, Marilyn King, unquestionably hopes so, too. She was at the 1972 Munich games: That's when terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches. I remember that little fiasco: it was a sort of watershed event. After the corpses were collected, it was quite a bit harder to present terrorists in a positive light.
For me, King is a case-in-point for thinking twice, or maybe three times, about boycotts of the Olympics. She lost her chance to compete in the pentathlon in 1980 because of a U.S. boycott of the Moscow games. Human lifespans being what they are, an individual has only so many cracks at the Olympics.
Enter the NudistsAnother group of activists have what I think might be a positive message for the Olympic games. At least from a marketing perspective. In addition to protests against China's relations with Sudan and Myanmar, we can expect "nudists calling for a return to the way the ancient Greek games were played." ("Security High for Torch's US Stop" ABC (April 9, 2008))
All-Nude Olympic gamesThis is an idea whose time may have come, although it's probably too late for the Beijing Olympics.
The sight of finely-tuned young bodies in the buff might enable some host city to break the attendance record of 400,345, set by the Sydney Olympic Park in 2000.
Particularly for the women's events.