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Men In Blue

Eyewear was there, yesterday, in London, as the Olympic torch began its marathon (and was it ever!) on foot, in Notting Hill. I was actually present for pro-Olympic purposes (My family has long been a believer in the Olympic spirit).

Makers of video games will no doubt be musing on this one: 31-miles, dozens of bearers, thousands of cops - you be the protester and snuff the flame out! Or, as France put it, today's relay through Paris will see the flame protected as if "a visiting head of state" - in short, a symbol worth dying for.

Or at least struggling against. This is dangerous territory - already, the attempts in London to blow the flame out with an extinguisher, or by knocking down anyone who carries it, have badly missed the mark. The Olympics are a movable feast - an ideal, and an event, larger than the host state, on any occasion. It isn't the Olympic flame that needs to be rekindled, or doused - but the actions of a particular government, that should be addressed - and there are other ways to do this. Meanwhile, on to Paris, where the spirit of '68 seems alive.

However, my sympathies for the torch bearers end a little short of one blue line. There was something weird about the "men in blue", tracksuited and serious, who surrounded the torch as it moved through the streets of London, like Secret Service officers guarding a US President (their diplomatic and police status still unclear). Whenever action was called for, they jumped into action - effectively. However, their very determination, and focus, seemed to call into question the purpose of the relay in the first place - if China needs to defend this symbol so badly, so forcefully on foreign soil - what else might they be using overdetermined force for, at home?

The tragedy of this Olympics, as it unfolds, is that a very admirable sporting event has been linked to a regime that seems incapable of adapting to the occasion, or the times.
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