Tibetans and supporters hold up flags at a rally in protest of China's Olympic torch at the U.N. Plaza in San Francisco as the torch arrived there Tuesday. (Chiu/AP)
San Francisco officials were playing hide-and-seek with the Olympic torch on Tuesday to keep it safe from protesters for Wednesday's 6-mile trek through the city's hilly streets.
The torch arrived in the San Francisco Bay area in the morning and was whisked off to a secret location as demonstrators vowed to douse the clarion call of the Summer Games in Beijing.
"We treated it like a head of state visit," said Mike McCarron, spokesman for San Francisco International Airport, where the torch arrived amid tight security.
The flame, commemorating the theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus by Prometheus, will be paraded through city streets today by a contingent of people, including three New Yorkers.
Retired NYPD cop James Dolan, 64, retired FDNY Firefighter Richard Doran, 57, and South Bronx environmental activist Majora Carter, 41, are to participate in Wednesday's torch relay. They say they are not deterred by the demonstrations that greeted the torch in London and Paris.
"Understand what will be in my heart when I run," Carter told the Daily News last night. "The torch symbolizes freedom and justice, and when one of us stands up for truth and justice, we all stand up for truth and justice.
Protesters, angered by Communist China's crackdown on dissidents in Tibet, have tackled torchbearers and fought with police. The chaotic clashes have embarrassed Chinese officials. About 2,000 people staged a peaceful rally in San Francisco yesterday to protest China's human rights record in Tibet. Actor Richard Gere read a message from the Dalai Lama urging nonviolence.
Earlier, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge told The Associated Press, "We are very sad for all the athletes and the people who expected so much from the run and have been spoiled of their joy."