The torch’s progress

So, the Olympic torch has made its brief visit to London over the weekend, with a trip across London from west (Wembley) to east (Stratford, where it passed by the 2012 building site) and down south (the former Millennium Dome, which is on the southern bank but is on a bit of the south side that pokes up north) before heading off to Paris for an equally eventful progress through that city. I’m personally in two minds about all this - I’m glad that people have tried to turn the relay into a rally, but don’t really object to the Olympics being in Beijing as, if a country’s human rights record was a bar to the country holding a sporting event, the Olympics would never get held anywhere. After all, once all the third world countries are eliminated, it might occur to the committee who decides that the third-world countries that got eliminated were clients of at least one of the western countries that weren’t.

However, I do object to the extent to which this government goes to appease the Chinese authorities. Last weekend, the torch was accompanied by a set of Chinese guards in blue, and the point of the Chinese presence was that they spoke Chinese - presumably so that they could identify protesters with the wrong Chinese slogans. When the country’s president, Jiang Zemin, visited a few years ago, this government also bent over backwards to make sure that he didn’t see too much of the demonstration, including (according to one letter in the Guardian) making sure the police cleared protesters off a bridge over Jiang’s route. Clearly it wouldn’t impress a quasi-dictator to see a demonstrator against him on a foreign visit, even to a country he knew to be a democracy, but what are they going to do - stop selling us computer parts or (perish the thought) zips for our trousers?

One other thought: I was wondering why the torch wasn’t taken out to Shropshire as well, given that the original Olympics of modern times were, and still are, held in the village of Much Wenlock in that county. Perhaps it was down to time (although the Chinese are apparently finding time to get a torch - albeit not the torch, but one lit from the same flame - up Mount Everest), but surely they will make time for this in 2012, when the modern Olympics, like football in 1996, “come home”?

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