Sunday, April 6, 2008

And they're off! Running battles as Tibet protestors ambush Olympic torch relay in London

Update 4: I now have a piece on yesterday's events up at Pajamas Media.

Update 5: For more on what's happening in Tibet you might want to check out Agam's Gecko.

Come to think of it, it would make a great Olympic event of itself: try to carry a torch (or baton, or any object) 31 miles through a major city, smiling the whole time, while being assailed by an angry mob.

As I write this post the relay is barely half-way across London, and the event is degenerating into what looks like a rolling series of Reagan shootings – someone attacks the procession, 20 policemen jump on them, another one shouts Go! Go! Go! and the torch, almost the literal definition of a political hot potato, continues on its way.

Already one protestor has tried to snuff out the torch with a fire extinguisher, while another tried to rip it out of the hands of a bemused children's TV presenter. There have been 25 arrests so far. The BBC has full coverage of the festivities/hostilities (festilities?), including video clips of the aforementioned incidents, here and also on its front page.

(Update 1: You can now watch live coverage at the above link. It's worth watching just for the comedy value of the massed ranks of jogging coppers, who occasionally break formation to rugby-tackle another protestor.)

The Beeb also has live coverage of the climax of the relay on its main channel at 5.35pm UK time, although they might drop it if the trouble continues, especially given that the protestors are likely to have some high-profile disruption planned for the finale.

I'll update this post with any major developments, but if you can get BBC World or BBC News 24 on cable/satellite I suggest you have some friends over, break out the beer and chips and enjoy the show.

I have to say I feel rather proud to be British today. These scenes are being broadcast around the world, and will certainly encourage campaigners elsewhere to stage similar protests, as well as putting pressure on national governments to at least boycott the opening ceremony in Beijing or make some other gesture, even if they insist on allowing their athletes to participate in the games. Sarkozy is making some encouraging noises.

Screw keeping politics out of sport. It's a quaint but outdated notion that might carry some weight if sport wasn't now dominated by commercial interests. Prestigious global sporting events shouldn't be gifted to murderous dictatorships, and that's that.

George Clooney was unavailable for comment.

Update 2: The pathetic response of Konnie Huq, the aforementioned TV presenter, is typical of the platitudes being spouted by politicians and sporting figures:

"I believe in the Olympic values, the Olympic ideals... it's just unfortunate that China has such a terrible track record when it comes to human rights and they are the host nation."

Especially unfortunate for those still being murdered and persecuted by the Chinese in Tibet and elsewhere in the country, and by Beijing's pals in Sudan.


Update 3: The pop group Sugababes has pulled out of the concert that's due to cap off the festivities this evening. There's some talk of laryngitis, but it's probably more a case of something sticking in the craw. Maybe they can get Bjork to fill in.

Thanks to Gateway Pundit for linking – Jim has more links and video. And thanks also to Kate, and a warm welcome to Small Dead Animals readers.


bkgodfrey said...

Great commentary on this circus that has become of the torch relay. I'm in the understanding that the protesters were finally successful in extinguishing the torch, twice as a matter of fact.

I came here from PJ's Media and am going to link to this site from my own blog, .

Great work, keep it up! Very entertaining, even though it's such a serious issue.

Agam said...

Mike, thanks for covering this, and great piece in PJM.

I've been very focused on the issue since Mar. 10th, though trying more to keep up with events inside Tibet than with the (also very important) activities outside it. I'm in Bangkok. Cheers!

Agam's Gecko