Protesters like Moths to a Flame
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown greeted the Olympic torch behind Downing Street’s closed steel gates in front of a vetted crowd on Sunday as his way of condemning the Chinese government’s suppression and murder of unarmed peasants and monks in Tibet.
Instead of a smooth free-flowing journey by foot, open-topped bus, boat and bicycle, many of the 80 torchbearers were stopped on several occasions and encircled by Chinese torch officials and uniformed police officers protecting the flame from swooping protesters.
About 2,000 Metropolitan Police, including airborne, mounted and river units, were mobilised for the eight-hour event.
When a schoolteacher from Anshang province, appeared with the flame he was surrounded by so many police that his handover to the Chinese ambassador, Fu Ying, was all but invisible to the hordes of photographers and cameramen who had been waiting for just that moment.
As the torch continued its jerky progress through the London streets, it seemed hard to believe that either the British or the Chinese government could have been happy with what they were witnessing. In fact the Chinese Embassy had seriously considered abandoning the day before it was half over.
Predictably, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy said: “It was very successful.”
The front page of China Daily, the English-language Communist Party newspaper, proclaimed: “Warm reception in cold London”.
Duncan Goodhew, the former Olympic swimmer who ran with the torch, said of the protest: “It shows how extreme things can get in this country and it’s a great shame. It’s such a bad example for children.”