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Let’s make this relay one for the (stone) ages

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO Colorado

What used to be an ancient symbol has become a worldwide farce.

In case you haven’t noticed, the Olympic flame is making its way around the globe, leading up to this year’s 2008 Beijing Games. I don’t have much of a problem with the flame itself ” which symbolizes Prometheus, a mortal, stealing fire from Zeus, a God ” it’s the parading around the globe that has got to go.

Before I trace the current path of this crazy conga line, I’ll take you back to its not-so-glorious roots. The tradition of the relay was introduced during the 1936 Berlin Games and was supposed to be used by Hitler to flaunt Nazi Germany’s power. The tour of the torch was feted like the Nazi war machine’s march through Europe. Something to which each Olympic Games should aspire, right?

Fast forward to this year. As the torch made its way through India, it had a security detail of around 15,000 police officers ” about half the population of Liechtenstein and the size of some countries’ armed forces. I’m surprised MTV hasn’t done a “Cribs” show for the torch (You think P-Diddy and Jay-Z had extravagant mansions?). So for all those in Delhi who had to suffer through the insane traffic because of the torch, no one actually got to see it. Unless you are one of the few people carrying it, or a pre-screened VIP, you can’t come near the torch.

Just to clarify, we are talking about a small flame ” something cavemen could make ” that has called for security measures one would have needed for Salman Rushdie’s 1989 book-signing tour through Iran.

On a side note, why were there rollerskate police in London guarding the torch? I feel like this is a terrible movie adapted into an off-Broadway production.

In Thailand, officials basically suspended the writ of habeus corpus for the guest of honor, His Royal Torchness. Officials warned that foreigners who disrupted the relay would be deported, and the Prime Minister told reporters on Saturday, “I have instructed the authorities to implement decisive measures (against disruptive

protesters).”

With at least 2,000 uniformed and plain-clothes officers on the route, along with “an undisclosed” number of soldiers, you’d think the government was looking to defend a coup. Wait, that already happened, without the defending part.

In San Francisco, a city known for its political exuberance, the torch took an unannounced route, and the planned closing ceremony slated for a park in the center of city was canceled and held at the airport instead. Come on, the torch didn’t get to go to Fisherman’s Wharf or Alcatraz? Some tour this is.

What about the whole public-display part? The torch’s route and timing were kept secret and rerouted to “avoid danger.” This isn’t a presidential motorcade.

The official guards charged to protect the torch don’t discriminate between riffraff and those with a stake in the games, as Lord Coe, head of the organizing committee for the 2012 London Games found out. According to Coe, “(The guards) tried to push me out of the way three times. They did not speak English. They were thugs.”

I guess it’s easier to gain the pope’s audience than that of a glorified lighter.

My precious

But really, who wants to touch it anymore? The torch is becoming like the ring in “Lord of the Rings.” I can just see it now, Gollum stealing the torch as it enters the Olympic stadium in Beijing. But wait, it won’t matter because the flame that he takes is actually a body double. Ha! Fooled you. And even if you got a hold of the real torch, by that point, the Chinese government will have installed a force field around it, whose entry requires retina identification and a urine test in which you must show that you’ve used banned substances ” the real mark of an Olympian.

On environmental concerns alone, China should have decided against the relay. How much of a carbon footprint is this leaving? Not much, according to the Beijing Games organization committee.

“(The gas) is composed of carbon and hydrogen. No material, except carbon dioxide and water, remains after the burning, eliminating any risk of pollution,” the organizing committee said on its Web site.

Oh, OK. I feel a lot better. Except for that fact that the torch is flown around the world on its own plane ” and one that makes Jay-Z’s plane look like a Yugo with wings. The next time I go strip mining, I’ll make sure I use biodiesel fuel to give back to the Earth.

The Olympic Games are less than four months away, and by the time we get to the actual relays, you know, like the 400-meter one, I think I’ll be relayed out.

Sports Writer Ian Cropp was scheduled to bike a leg of the relay, but organizers thought the scandal-laden sport of cycling would tarnish the torch’s image. He can be reached at 970-748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.

But really, who wants to touch it anymore? The torch is becoming like the ring in “Lord of the Rings.” I can just see it now, Gollum stealing the torch as it enters the Olympic stadium in Beijing. But wait, it won’t matter because the flame that he takes is actually a body double. Ha! Fooled you. And even if you got a hold of the real torch, by that point, the Chinese government will have installed a force field around it, whose entry requires retina identification and a urine test in which you must show that you’ve used banned substances ” the real mark of an Olympian.

On environmental concerns alone, China should have decided against the relay. How much of a carbon footprint is this leaving? Not much, according to the Beijing Games organization committee.

“(The gas) is composed of carbon and hydrogen. No material, except carbon dioxide and water remain after the burning, eliminating any risk of pollution,” the organizing committee said on its Web site.

Oh, OK. I feel a lot better. Except for that fact that the torch is flown around the world on its own plane ” and one that make’s Jay-Z’s plane look like a Yugo with wings. The next time I go strip mining, I’ll make sure I use biodiesel fuel to give back to the earth.

The Olympic Games are less than four months away, and by the time we get to the actual relays, you know, like the 400-meter one, I think I’ll be relayed out.

Sports Writer Ian Cropp was scheduled to bike a leg of the relay, but organizers thought the scandal-laden sport of cycling would tarnish to torch’s image. He can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.


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