Olympic flame to follow waterfront route

When the Olympic torch comes through San Francisco next week during its only North American stop, it will face likely protests, but due to its waterfront route, it will also need to withstand The City’s bay breeze.

The San Francisco Police Department released the six-mile route Tuesday after weeks of deliberation with Olympic and city officials over the safest and most accommodating route for the torch.

The Olympic torch arrived in Beijing on Monday, after demonstrations by a pro-Tibetan group during its passage through Greece. Protests against China’s human-rights violations are expected to follow the flame throughout its journey. The Associated Press reported Tuesday that India’s soccer captain has refused to carry the torch to protest China’s crackdown on recent demonstrations in Tibet.

The route is subject to change by the International Olympic Committee, the Beijing Olympic Committee on Games, the U.S. Olympic Committee and The City, said a police spokesman.

First Amendment rights will be protected, said Sgt. Steve Mannina, who added that there will be enough officers deployed on April 9 “to ensure that it is a safe event.”

Groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have pushed city officials in recent weeks for the route’s release.

Yangchen Lhamo, a 22-year-old Tibetan and spokeswoman for Students for a Free Tibet, said while they were happy the route was not released the day before actual relay, the path of the Olympic torch should have been announced sooner.

“We’re expecting thousands of people from out of state to come in. It should be a colorful, loud protest,” said Lhamo, adding that actor Richard Gere and Bishop Desmond Tutu were expected to speak at a protest event in San Francisco the day before the torch relay, on April 8.

Mayor Gavin Newsom said he was disappointed that some of The City’s more iconic imagery such as Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island and cable cars would not be used in the route but said the route was simplified to accommodate expected crowds and protesters.

dsmith@examiner.com

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