April 7th, 2008
03:40 PM ET

Olympic protestors halt the torch


Before things got underway the police were in complete control. Police boats worked the river...a bridge across the Seine was shut down... there was a six square block security area around the Eiffel tower and to the confusion of the tourists who hadn't gotten the e-mail, Paris' most visited landmark was suddenly off limits.

But hey, the media? We can usually get through those police lines with our press cards held high. Not this time. We walked from one check point to the next, joking with the cops, but getting nowhere. Finally at a makeshift press tent we got through... and there, to our amazement, we were practically alone. Dead underneath the tower just as the first torch runner was coming down the stairs.

He set off surrounded by a ring of Chinese torch protectors, surrounded by a ring of rollerblading policemen, surrounded by a ring of jogging firemen, surrounded by a ring of police trucks, motorcycles and vehicles of every description. For lovers of organization, it was a beautiful thing.

But, as the generals always say...battle plans work great until you encounter the enemy.

The security "bubble" approach had a flaw, it seemed. Since protesting crowds were not prevented from walking... or sitting down... in front of the motorcade, it repeatedly got stopped. And when it got stopped, the flame was vulnerable to the anti-flame forces. So for security sake, it was out with the torch and into the bus for the torch runner.

Finally, running two and half hours late and only half way through the 17 mile course, the Olympic officials threw in the towel. They decided to keep the torch and runners on the bus and head for the exit... in this case, a stadium where there was a brief closing ceremony in Southeast Paris.

In London and in Paris, the security forces went 0 for 2. It's on it's way to San Francisco next and I am sure all here are wishing their American friends, bon courage!

– Jim Bitterman, CNN Senior International Correspondent

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Filed under: Olympics
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Ken

    It seems to me that until a couple of weeks ago, nobody really cared what happened to the people of TIBET. Today, hundreds and thousands are standing in the streets protesting China's handling of the situation. Agreed, it wasn't the best way to handle a problem they knew was coming, but is it our right to use the OLYMPICS to make our point. And since when have we suddenly lowered ourselves to directly involve the OLYMPICS in Politics. Protest all you want, but quit pointing fingers at China and using the OLYMPICS as a weapon. The people of China have been mistreated for hundreds of years, and they deserve to share in the joy of the OLYMPICS. Have we forgotten that the OLYMPICS was never only for free people. It is for all of us!!!!!!

    April 8, 2008 at 5:58 am |
  2. Nancy Riley, Atlanta,Ga

    Hillary is right about suggesting Bush not attend the opening ceremonies. I think everyone should boycott the whole thing and force the Olympic committee to move it to another location.

    April 8, 2008 at 1:51 am |
  3. ryan


    April 8, 2008 at 1:04 am |
  4. Annie Kate

    Rather than disrupt the Olympics which can have a positive effect on international relations with China, protest with your money. Don't buy things from China, protest the companies that off shore their work to China and boycott them. The best place to get one's attention is their pocketbook. In buying all the stuff from China we are supporting the very practices we are trying to protest. You can't have it both ways.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 7, 2008 at 11:13 pm |
  5. samantha

    When will the killing and imprisonment of innocent people ever end???China is evil and immoral the US seems to be the same way...Money and Power is more important than any human life. What has this world come to??? Who are the evil individuals that manipulate and kill for this greed?????? please stop this insanity people. Power to the people of the world!

    April 7, 2008 at 9:06 pm |
  6. Surer

    Poltiics (personal beliefs) don't have a place in the Olymipcs. The Olympics are meant to be a physical representation of unity in diversity, athletes competing without prejudice or disrimination. Therefore, China is merely acting as a world stage. It is ridiculous to assume boycotting the Olympics and blowing out torches will help anyone, it doesn't, these nuances only harm those who are competing (some for their only chance) in the games. Are you serious about sending China a message? Don't buy things marked 'Made in China'.

    April 7, 2008 at 7:35 pm |
  7. Tammy

    Stopping the torch isn't that big of a deal to people who have no respect for human life. The protest probably means nothing to them. However, it's a nuisance for the torch bearer and others trying to carry on an ancient tradition and symbol of sport for the sake of national glory and athleticism, not political activism. If you want to protest, kick them economically. But don't stop the torch bearer from running. It's just stupid. And today in San Francisco proved how many nut jobs we have in this country, too. I know guys who work security for the Olympics. If something happens, it's a total fluke. I'd feel safer at the Olympics than I would walking most inner city street on any given day or night. The security forces for our Olympians are top-notch. It's just a shame they may have to waste energy and resources on people who don't get that their whining is falling on deaf ears. Oh and blocking the torch isn't saving a soul in Tibet right now, either. And it never will.

    April 7, 2008 at 6:06 pm |
  8. pati mc., camp hill, pa

    Hello Jim,

    I wanted to comment on your piece as I was live chatting with a friend in Paris early this morning when suddenly she exclaimed "oh no"! I heard about the incident in Paris as it was happening. I was stunned when she told me that the flame has been extinguished. Never had I heard of this happening.

    Clearly this is a serious issue and we here in the US need to be prepared. I agree with Kent, I am wary that something bad may happen as well.

    Frankly this issue regarding Tibet needs to be addressed; it is important. However, I hope that it can be resolved in a peaceful manner. So far it appears that this is not to be.

    April 7, 2008 at 5:45 pm |
  9. Kelly, SF

    Hey Anderson & Crew,
    We've been watching the protestors climb up the Golden Gate Bridge all morning from our perch in a downtown skyscraper facing that direction, snarling traffic, but getting their message across. My initial question was "where are the police". They were there, but I didn't see anyone climbing up after the protestors – allowing them to hang their signs. Of course they were waiting for them on the way down, but over all it was a peaceful protest – if you don't count scaling a national landmark to "deface" it (their words not mine) and causing a major traffic sign. At last check the banners were all still there! Can't wait for Wednesday when the torch hits SF. We've been warned that it will be quite a commute and will be very slow because of protests.

    April 7, 2008 at 5:37 pm |
  10. Jo Ann

    The International Olympic Committee must have foreseen the possibility of protests when it awarded Beijing the chance to host the Olympics. It is a shame that a symbol of peace like the Olympic flame is being met with violence, but it is a bigger shame that it is being used to celebrate China, a country with such an atrocious human rights record. The human rights abuses of China are in direct conflict with the peace symbolized by the Olympic flame. How can there be international harmony if these types of abuses are allowed to continue?

    I feel badly for the athletes who have trained so hard for these games, but as they say, sometimes the needs of the few must be sacrificed for the good of the many. I have to agree with Hans-Gert Poettering, the German President of the European Parliament, the success of the games is not worth “the price of a cultural genocide of the Tibetans.”

    It is unfortunate, but true that few government leaders are willing to endorse a boycott of these games because they are afraid to alienate an important trade partner and like the U.S. are so indebted to the Chinese.

    We can only hope that the attention these protesters draw to China’s human rights violations will in some way assist the Dalai Lama and the Tibetans in their cause.

    Jo Ann
    North Royalton, Ohio

    April 7, 2008 at 4:52 pm |
  11. Kent, Illinois

    The whole thing is scary. I believe something terrible is going to happen at the Olympics this year. Whether it is brought on by these protesters or something having to do with Iraq.........it's gonna be bad. The USA should boycott the Olympics this time.

    April 7, 2008 at 4:49 pm |
  12. Mary Ann

    Hurray for the brave people that put the sign on the Golden Gate Bridge for the world to see. We are trying to save Iraq for what? What about Tibet? What about Burma? Oh excuse me, they don't have any oil.

    April 7, 2008 at 4:47 pm |
  13. Khajak Boghossian

    Whether or not Tibetan protesters are justified in disrupting the torch relay is open to debate. In so doing, however, they are successfully bringing their political struggle to the forefront of the global media. Having already sabotaged the traditional procession in London and Paris, Tibetan organizations have announced their plans to protest at every stop on the official tour. If the Tibetan issue fails to get resolved, the torch, a symbol of the Olympic spirit, will also become a symbol of the Tibetan struggle.

    April 7, 2008 at 4:42 pm |
  14. Jack Hicks, Fort Myers

    This is what happens when socialist politicians create policies that result in rampant unemployment–people who should be working have too much time on their hands.

    Do we really want to trust ANY of our Presidential candidates (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no truth) to attempt fixing our economy!!!

    April 7, 2008 at 4:18 pm |
  15. Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA

    It was a mistake to award the Olympic games to China. All of China's human right's abuses should have been addressed and settled before they received an Olympic bid.

    April 7, 2008 at 4:00 pm |
  16. Cindy

    I think that it is dumb at what these protestors are doing. If they want to protest the way that people are treated by China then they should do something that matters and will make a difference in the long run. Attacking these people that are carrying the Olympic torch isn't going to do anything but get them arrested. If they want to make a real difference they should contact their government and rally to get the government to try and force China to do better. The Olympic committee or participants can't change anything in China.

    Cynthia, Covington, Ga.

    April 7, 2008 at 3:47 pm |