Officials in San Francisco said that they were developing a plan that strikes a balance between protesters' rights to express their views and the city's ability to host a safe torch ceremony.

Protests planned

The flame was taken to a secret location following its arrival in San Francisco, according to David Perry, spokesman for the the city's Olympic Torch Relay Committee.

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Several protests against Chinese rule in Tibet have been planned along the torch's 10km route on Wednesday.

Perry said that one runner who had been scheduled to carry the flame during the relay had dropped out because of safety concerns.

Before the torch's arrival, three people climbed the Golden Gate Bridge and tied the Tibetan flag and two banners to its cables.

The banners read "One World One Dream - Free Tibet", and "Free Tibet 08".

Non-violence

The organisers of the bridge protest said they would remain faithful to their mission of non-violence during the torch relay.

They said they wanted to take advantage of the international spotlight on China to get their message across.

"This is a life-or-death situation for Tibetans," said Yangchen Lhamo, a member of the board of directors of Students for a Free Tibet.

The torch's journey was supposed to highlight China's growing economic and political power ahead of the Olympics in August. 

But activists opposing China's policies in Tibet have been protesting along the torch's 136,788km route since the start of the relay from Ancient Olympia in Greece towards Beijing.

In Paris, Chinese officials were forced to extinguish the flame and seek refuge in a bus as hundreds of activists blocked the relay, hurled water at the flame and tried to seize the torch.

Host country

Kevan Gosper, a senior IOC member, said that the torch relay should be confined to the host country at future games.

"My belief is the torch relay will stay on course," he said.

Rogge will consider cancelling
international torch relays in future [AFP]
"There might be adjustments, but I think it would be wrong, actually, to try and do anything more than try to get torch through to its ultimate destination.
   
"But certainly, the IOC executive board should review the torch relay programme for the future."

Gosper denounced the protesters as "professional spoilers" who were "filled with resentment and hate".

Asked whether Chinese organisers had gone ahead with their torch relay plan against the advice of the IOC co-ordination commission, Gosper said they had not.
   
"The Beijing Cocom [co-ordinating committee] discussed the concerns with what could happen on the torch relay route but the decision had already been taken and we simply moved to a state of preparedness," he said.

Wang Hui, the Beijing organising committee's director of media and communications said "the smooth progress of the torch relay cannot be stopped and will definitely be a big success".