Consensus to continue

 

"The consensus is that the torch relay will go on," Fok said.

 

"Rogge said that everything should be normal and proceed as planned and, although there may be some minor adjustments to the route, the general message is that the route will not be changed."

 

China condemned protests that disrupted the Olympic torch relay in London and Paris as "despicable", but vowed on Tuesday to continue the relay to the end.

 

The flame arrived in San Francisco on Wednesday morning and was immediately put in a vehicle to be taken to a secret location, said David Perry, a US Olympic official.

 

Gavin Newsom, the city's mayor, said he had been in contact with French and British officials to gain insight on how the city should handle protesters.

 

"I'm not naive to the challenge associated with this event," he said on Tuesday.


US route may change

 

The mayor said the route and other details of the relay could change to respond to events in a city where a fifth are of Chinese descent.

 

China's Olympic flame phalanx

The `flame protection squad' was formed in August 2007

They are tasked with protecting the fire 24 hours a day

Members picked from People's Armed Police, usually responsible for riot control and domestic stability

The squad is divided into two teams

One, with 30 members, accompanies the torch on its international leg

The other, with 40 guards, protects the flame in China

Training for the squad included running 10km a day on mountain roads

 

The planned San Francisco protests have irritated some in the Chinese community, the largest of any major US city, many of whom are proud their ancestral motherland is hosting the global sporting event.

Authorities are also stepping up patrols on the Golden Gate Bridge after three protesters scaled its cables on Monday to hang pro-Tibet banners.

 

Thousands of raucous protesters angry about China's policies in Tibet and human rights record disrupted the torch relay through the British and French capitals.

 

On Monday, organisers were forced to cancel the last third of the Paris route after demonstrators hurled water at the flame and lunged at torchbearers.

 

The security detail protecting the torch had to repeatedly extinguish it along the route and retreat to the safety of a bus, although the Olympic flame continually burns in a lantern brought along the route.

 

China's Foreign Ministry blamed the disruptions on groups seeking to split

the far western region of Tibet from the rest of China.

 

The torch relay has turned into a public relations disaster for China's government, which had hoped the August games would showcase an open and modern country.

 

`Deep concern'

 

Rogge expressed "deep concern" on Tuesday over the violent nature of the protests and said the IOC board would review the plans for the rest of the relay.

 

"We recognise the right for people to protest and express their views, but it should be non-violent. 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," he said.

 

The torch began its 136,800km journey from Mount Olympus in Greece to Beijing on March 24th, and was the focus of protests from the start.

 

The round-the-world trip is the longest in Olympic history, and is meant to highlight China's rising economic and political power.

 

After San Francisco, the torch is scheduled to travel to Buenos Aires,

Argentina, and then to a dozen other countries.

 

The relay also is expected to face demonstrations in New Delhi and possibly elsewhere on its 21-stop, six-continent tour before arriving in mainland China on May 4th.