Olympic torch arrives in San Francisco

April 8, 2008 9:00:19 PM PDT
Security concerns increase as the Olympic flame arrives in San Francisco on Tuesday morning. There weren't any protests at the airport.

However, the Olympic torch's only appearance in North America has ignited so much controversy, officials are talking about taking drastic measures. To prevent a safety and public relations disaster, ABC7 News has learned that they will shorten the relay route dramatically at the very last minute. The torch relay will take off from McCovey Cove at the Giants Ball park tomorrow around 1:00 in the afternoon. Then proceed along the Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf-- ending at Justin Herman plaza. Police say they are prepared for the worst, we'll see what happens. A reliable police source told ABC7 News that they plan to reduce the six-mile long route by either ending a portion or all of that route that extends from Fisherman Wharf to Bay Street and back to the Embarcadero. Police consider that a narrowest part of the route, and the most vulnerable.

Despite the protest ridden journey of the torch, it did manage to make a quiet entrance at the airport on Tuesday morning.

A large contingent of police was at the international terminal. But not a single protestor showed up for the 3:40 a.m. arrival.

The torch was quickly taken from the runway to an undisclosed location in the city.

The U.S. Olympic committee's Peter Ueberroth met with Mayor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday morning.

He is confident the city will be able to protect the torch.

"I think in contrast with some other parts of the world, maybe we can show we can do it very, very well and that would be my hope," said U.S. Olympic Committee Chairman Peter Ueberroth.

Chinatown leader Rose Pak also has high hopes.

"Different people have different opinions and they are most welcome to express that and I think people will leave the torch alone," said Rose Pak from the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

Tibetan independence activists promised Wednesday's protests would be peaceful.

"Our leader Dalai Lama urged us to be non violent. No violence. We're doing peaceful march as we planned, so they shouldn't worry about it," said Janyang Nordup from the Tibet Association of Northern California.

But very much on the minds of city officials and police is Monday's protest on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Three people scaled suspension cables near the south tower and unfurled banners supporting Tibetan independence.

Also influencing the strategy of police are the disruptions by demonstrators in Paris and London.

Protestors managed to slip through tight police cordons despite their massive presence.

San Francisco Police continued to meet today to make last minute changes.

Former chief Tony Ribera says police today deal with protestors differently. Their tactics are not as predictable.

"Nowadays gone is the kind of old skirmish lines type of operation. That's kind of taken a back seat to different tactics, particularly a mobile type thing like the torch run will be," said former San Francisco Police Chief Tony Ribera.

Police have been hanging signs along the Embarcadero that read no stopping from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The signs warns motorists that the Embarcadero will be closed between noon and 4:00 p.m.

"I will be meeting first thing in the morning with the police chief and others. I will be monitoring what happens in those other events and we'll be making judgments up and until the beginning of the route and that is my exclusive focus right now," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

There will be a massive police presence on Wednesday along the Embarcadero. Police won't say exactly how many officers there will be, but they will be backed by the CHP and Sheriff's deputies.

Mayor Newsom said that everything is very fluid, they can change plans very quickly.

FULL COVERAGE: SF Olympic Torch Run

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View video taken by Students for a Free Tibet of the Golden Gate Bridge protest here.

For Olympic Torch schedule and information, including street closures and the six-mile route through San Francisco, click here.

SEND US YOUR PHOTOS: If you have a photo of this news story, email it to us at photos@kgo-tv.com


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