Safety for Olympic torchbearers

April 4, 2008 7:15:24 PM PDT
There's bound to be a large, vocal protest underway this morning when Mayor Gavin Newsom makes an important announcement about next weeks' Olympic torch run in San Francisco. The mayor will reveal the names of the runners today.

Mayor Gavin Newsom today promised plenty of security will be in place along the relay route. The Olympic flame is getting closer to the Bay Area. It travels through St. Petersburg, Russia on Saturday, then London and Paris, before arriving in San Francisco early Tuesday morning, for the Wednesday afternoon relay down the Embarcadero.

The torchbearers will start at McCovey Cove and run up the Embarcadero, past Justin Herman Plaza to Bay Street and then back to the plaza for a ceremony across from the Ferry Building.

Tens of thousands will line the six mile route next Wednesday, April 9th, including protestors that are expected to number in the thousands.

There was concern about releasing the names of those who will carry the torch, but this morning the Mayor did from the heart of Chinatown.

Mayor Gavin Newsom was flanked by six of the torchbearers at Friday morning's announcement. 29-year-old Lisa Hartmayer a registered nurse and environmental activist was one of 36 picked. Her 200 word essay was one of 543 applications.

"I'm honored to represent my community and I feel that this is an amazing event," said Hartmayer.

Publicly she talked about the opportunity of carrying the torch. Away from all the microphones Hartmayer said she is concerned that some will see her participation as somehow condoning China's human rights abuses.

"And some of my coworkers, I've told them about this and some of them have a lot of mixed feelings about this so it's a very hard question to answer I really just have a lot of hope in this world," said Hartmayer.

75-year-old Shirley Olivo, San Francisco native and grandmother of a Special Olympian, isn't worried about protestors.

"Not one bit. I protested myself against the Iraq war," said Olivo.

She says carrying the torch and the Olympics shouldn't really be about politics.

"Protesting is fine like I said, I do it myself, but this is kind of like putting a damper on the Olympics as far as I'm concerned," said Olivo.

None of the torchbearers we talked with expressed concern for their safety, but former Olympian Marilyn King is worried that she'll be jeered as she carries the torch. Not for herself but for what it means for a symbol she reveres.

"It's sad for me as an Olympian I believe strongly in the Olympic movement and what Pierre de Cubertant said that the purpose is to educate youth to create a better and more peaceful world," said King.

A better and more peaceful world is also the goal of many who will be protesting. We've seen them outside City Hall and inside as supervisors passed a resolution saying the torch would be accepted with shock and alarm.

Friday, Gavin Newsom distanced himself from that resolution and told reporters security will be adequate. The city has learned from the incident in Turkey on Thursday where a protestor tried to grab the torch.

"The reality is if you rush a torchbearer you're not helping the cause of promoting safety you're not helping the cause of promoting peace," said Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Olympic Torch Relay Route through San Francisco:

  • McCovey Cove northbound to Third Street
  • Third Street to the Embarcadero
  • The Embarcadero to Jefferson Street
  • Jefferson Street to Hyde Street
  • Hyde Street to Beach Street
  • Beach Street to Polk Street
  • Polk Street to Bay Street
  • Bay Street back to the Embarcadero
  • The Embarcadero to Justin Herman Plaza for a concluding ceremony


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