No-show flame disappoints spectators

Many of the thousands of spectators who packed Justin Herman Plaza near The Embarcadero on Wednesday to gain a glimpse of the Olympic torch that never arrived said they felt cheated and frustrated, calling the torch run “nonsense.”

“It basically means The City chickened out,” Berkeley resident Scott Serata said after the route changed due to security concerns.

A throng of onlookers began lining the Embarcadero early Wednesday morning in hopes of seeing the torch. After hearing rumors about the adjusted route, many said a feeling of disappointment began to set in.

“I’m kind of torn because I took time off from work to see the torch,” Cliff Waldeck said. “Now I feel like I’m collateral damage from the perceived threat of protesters and the insider cool people.”

Some in the crowd who waited at Justin Herman Plaza for the scheduled closing ceremony were not even aware that the gala, scheduled to begin between 2:45 and 3 p.m., had been canceled, even as police began clearing the area after 4 p.m.

Mark Keener, an Alabama native vacationing in The City, was sitting on a post in the median between Market Street and the Ferry Building when he realized the torch would never turn up.

“It’s real disappointing,” Keener said. “This might be the only chance I’ll ever get to see something like this.”

Laurel Sutherin, one of the protesters who scaled the Golden Gate Bridge on Monday, said he hoped the International Olympic Committee would “reconsider the torch run” after Wednesday’s events.

“The Chinese government has said they will do anything to suppress dissent during the torch relay, which means brutally repressive actions,” he said. “The IOC will have blood on its hand if it lets this torch relay continue.”

Not all were completely disappointed by the abbreviated torch run.

Ming Dong, of Berkeley, who showed his support for the Beijing Games by walking down The Embarcadero holding a Chinese flag, was simply relieved violence did not break out.

“I’m here, showed my support with so many other Chinese and everything remained peaceful,” Dong said.

melliser@examiner.com

Staff Writer David Smith contributed to this report.

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