Olympic flame leaves San Francisco

April 9, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
San Francisco officials pulled a fast one and completely re-routed the Olympic torch relay.

It was a confusing game of hide and seek on Wednesday between torch protesters, and police. Leaders scrapped plans to take the flame along the Embarcadero. Instead, they smuggled it out to Van Ness Avenue, where torchbearers carried it toward the Golden Gate Bridge. Then, it was bussed back to San Francisco International Airport.

SLIDESHOW: View images of the Olympic Torch run through San Francisco.

Even though the relay started by the water, it really consistently took turns away from the original route. It was far away from the Bridge, the monuments, and signature landmarks of San Francisco.

It started out just as planned. The Olympic torch was ceremoniously lit, a crowd was watching, the first runner takes off, and then confusion. After an extended delay, torch runners were nowhere near the official relay route, only spectators and protesters.

The anti-China demonstrators caused the City to not only change the route, but shorten it. Erik Burke was one of the last runners with the torch.

"It was a lot of confusion, a lot of times we didn't know what was going on, the Mayor, he jumped in and tried to explain to us how they were changing the course," said Eric Burke, a Torch Runner.

The most dramatic change came at the end, when officials suddenly cancelled the Closing Ceremonies at Justin Herman Plaza, where thousands of people waited for hours.

"I don't even see the point, if no one even gets to see the torch, why even have it run? Why even have it here, why not cancel the whole thing all together," said Scott Frank, from San Rafael.

A move Olympic Committee Members praised the City for not doing.

Instead, the flame was re-routed, one final time, to San Francisco International Airport. While security and torch bearers made their way to a secure area near the Interational Terminal.

The flame went straight to an awaiting airplane and was flown to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Olympic officials vowed late Wednesday night to continue the torch relay. They say they will not give in to violence.

The flame was also kept away from protesters who instead, followed and heckled two torch runners as they left the airport.

"The Olympics is all about friendship and China doesn't deserve to host the Olympic Games," said Nam Guial, a protester.

Others who followed the flame to SFO, disagreed.

"I had to come and show my support, a lot of people are supporting Olympics," said Hui Huang, Sunnyvale.

Olympic organizers expect the flame's journey to be peaceful at least through the next few stops.

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.

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