The Olympic Torch

The Olympic Torch passed through San Francisco today.

There was a grand plan, published in the Chronicle and on web sites everywhere, to start with a ceremony at McCovey Cove, run with the torch along the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf and return to Justin Herman Plaza for a ceremony. The event was to begin at one o”clock.

Given the disruptive events in London and Paris, Mayor Gavin Newsom repeatedly stated that things could change, depending on the situation.

I was thinking of going to the parade route, but the more I thought about it, the more I reasoned that there would be crowds and I couldn”t see anything. I considered a high vantage point, maybe Telegraph Hill, or maybe the parking garage where we go to the top floor to watch the Kaboom fireworks. Then I envisioned the sniper in the book bindery. I”m thinking security would probably have their eye on that kind of place, after all, we”re talkin” Police, Sheriff, FBI, CHP, the Olympic Committee and Lord knows who else. Best to stay home and watch it on TV with the rest of the world.

Indeed, large groups assembled; Chinese, Taiwanese, pro Olympic, Free Tibet, Get out of Darfur, and on and on. In the morning, they were orderly, but in place, with signs, banners, chants and bodies.

I turned on KGO channel 5 at the appointed time. Nothing was happening. Pictures were shown of Mayor Newsom on his cell phone. There was speculation. I turned on CNN, where Wolf Blazer was speculating. But he kept referring to his sources at KGO in San Francisco, and that was the KGO helicopter in the sky, so I went back to KGO.


All the while, I”m in the kitchen, putting together a Hungarian Beef Stew as a tester for Cook’s Illustrated. On TV, a runner emerged with the torch but then turned abruptly into a waterfront pier. Commentators speculated that they would take the torch in a waiting police boat to the Ferry Building, across from Justin Herman Plaza.

In my kitchen, I started to hear helicopters, but thought nothing of it, there are so many flying around on such a day. Then an excited voice came on the TV, “There are runners!, with a torch! We can”t figure out where they are, but they”re on a broad street, with no crowds and no demonstrators. They”ve started to run, with heavy police escort. They”re on Van Ness, heading north.”

I looked up and paid attention! Van Ness is one block from me. “They”re on Van Ness at Jackson heading north.” Holy shit! They”re six blocks away. I went outside and looked down the hill. Van Ness was blocked off, but there were no barricades, just a motorcycle cop. I grabbed my jacket and camera and jumped on my scooter. “I”ll intercept them at Van Ness and Green.”

And that’s what I did.


Here we are, at Van Ness and Green. I asked the woman to turn around and show me her, er… sign.


OK… here they come.


Never saw so many motorcycle cops…


The yellow Duck is carrying photographers and other media folk. Some speculated that they might go in the water of the bay from Crissy Field back to… they weren’t sure.


Well, the Duck is closer… I’m just clicking away by now to get whatever is coming.


Now, here’s the real deal, but they’ll be coming closer…torch7.jpg

So the cops stop and turn to the “crowd,” kinda like the wall for a penalty kick in soccer.


There… the torch bearers (they’re the ones in red and white jogging suits). If you look closely, you’ll see that they’re carrying the torch between them (but the torch is so small, compared to all the other falderal).


Right in front of me… the guys in the light blue and white are Olympic security guys.


And the torch has passed… but wait…

“My runners” have passed the torch and are coming back…torch14.jpg

Here’s a picture of the swell Beijing 2008 running shirts…torch15.jpg

And “my runners” are about to board a waiting bus. The reporter is asking the cop, “Where do they go from here?”

“Beats me lady,” the cop says.


I was standing on the first “s” in Van Ness Ave.

Caption 4, upper left says,
“Finally, the torch was taken by bus on Doyle Drive to 19th Avenue and then to San Francisco Airport.”


3 thoughts on “The Olympic Torch

  1. Holy shit – hat was exciting for a morning making beef stew! How was the stew? Did it turn out better for the pause to watch the flame? Were you close enough to cook some of the beef on the flame when it passed? Wonder what that would taste like…and how you would ‘splain it to the Cooks Illustrated team when they ask for feedback on the recipe.


  2. Following the torch has quickly become a big story here in France due to all the hubbub that went down in in London & Paris. Thus and therefore, you were probably mingling among several French broadcasters at VN&G. The SF torch run was the top story on our morning news this morning, with one headline I heard being: “You had to be either clever or lucky to get to see the torch in SF yesterday because of the huge security precautions.” I guess you were a little of both. The overwhelming sentiment here is pro-Tibet and there’s a very trendy t-shirt that one of the protest groups created that’s black with five interlocking handcuffs on it in a highly recognizable (and highly copyrighted) configuration. President Bling-Bling has been coy about whether he might be a no-show at the opening ceremonies (you know he wants to go) but Gordon Brown has already trumped him by declaring that he’s not going. Do heads of state usually go to Olympic opening ceremonies? I don’t recall that this is a normal protocol…


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