The other morning I woke to a piece on NPR about the Olympic Torch Relay finally getting on Chinese soil. Today it is on the mainland enjoying quite a following. To say this ritual carried from the ancient games has ignited more than the current Olympic flame, which began March 24, 2008 at the ancient Temple of Hera in Olympia, is an understatement. Every leg save the current legs in China have been accompanied by huge crowds protesting against human rights violations, the sovereignty of Tibet, and the political support Chinese has offered the Sudanese government. Accompanying the protests have been intense security, tactical diversions, and hot media. Now that the torch is in China the protests are gone, the security is more relaxed (or is it?) and the media is state run. So if there are protests we might not know. Hmmm. The AP has headlined an article, "Olympic Torch Enjoying a Smooth Relay" (May 7, 2008). Well, there are around 100 legs of relay ahead til this symbolic flame reaches the Olympic venue in Beijing. Personally, I'm waiting for televised coverage of the Mount Everest climb. Historic in so many ways.
The image in this post is my torch from the 1984 Olympic Torch Relay. The Relay traveled the United States, starting in New York City and ending at the Los Angeles Coliseum, traversing 33 states and Washington, DC. The torches (each runner keeps theirs) in the relay were only carried by runners on foot, covered more than 9,320 mi (15,000 km) and involved 3616 different runners, including 200 runners from the sponsoring company AT&T, and one runner from San Jose, CA who won her one kilometer leg in the San Jose Mercury (love that paper!) 10K road race. None of my memories in that kilometer, which I milked for every second I could, included protests, zealous security or left out media. If there was a protest somewhere, I missed it. The Olympics are a political event after all. After a much delayed start (actually scheduled for 8pm) due to the crowd who came to watch, I ran at midnight on a country road in bucolic Carmel Valley, CA. Friends ran beside me along with some AT&T employees, escort cars, and a few local police. I really felt I was part of the Olympic Torch ideal; I was "spreading the Olympic spirit, the message of peace and friendship" and helping to "ignite the passion of the people around the world." There was no stress. Just sheer joy! As I watch the relay via online video I only hope the runners have that same sense of Olympic spirit and joy as they dodge a multitude of distractions.