Protests or not, Olympic torch officials plan to stay the course
Further demonstrations are expected at upcoming stops, which include Latin America, Africa, and Asia.
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International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge backed that stance Thursday, saying a shortening of the route – the most ambitious in Olympics history – to forestall more trouble "is definitely not on the agenda."
Further disruptive protests over Tibet and human rights are expected, however, before the torch reaches the safety of Chinese shores. Beijing has shown no sign of any political gestures to defuse the demonstrations; indeed it fanned tension by choosing its ambassador to Britain to carry the torch in London. The relay's intended message of harmony now appears beyond salvage.
The Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee (BOCOG) "cannot do anything" to defuse protests "because it's political," says Mao Shoulong, an analyst at Beijing's Renmin University. Worldwide calls on the Chinese government to make a political move, such as opening talks with the Dalai Lama, are going unheeded, he adds.
That leaves the relay's corporate sponsors furious but impotent. "Their worst nightmare is coming true in spades," says one PR professional familiar with the problems sponsors such as Coca Cola, Samsung, and Lenovo are facing. "They are wondering how things could have got so out of control in so many ways."
In San Francisco, the relay's latest stop, torch bearers avoided trouble Wednesday by running away from the crowds gathered to cheer or boo them, taking a shortened and unpublicized route along sometimes deserted streets.
Losing the image battle
This is not what the Chinese authorities had in mind when they mapped out the longest international Olympic torch relay ever run, an ambitious 85,000-mile, 20-nation odyssey designed to build anticipation for the Games, which open on August 8.
Where the torch heads next
After raucous tours in Europe and the US, the Olympic flame arrives in Latin America Friday and will visit Africa and Asia before returning to China in May.
April 11: Buenos Aires
April 13: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
April 14: Muscat, Oman
April 16: Islamabad, Pakistan
April 17: New Delhi
April 19: Bangkok, Thailand
April 21: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
April 22: Jakarta, Indonesia
April 24: Canberra, Australia
April 26: Nagano, Japan
April 27: Seoul, South Korea
April 28: Pyongyang, North Korea
April 29: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
May 2: Hong Kong
Source: Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee