SAN FRANCISCO -- The Olympic torch relay in San Francisco was concluded Wednesday afternoon, without major incidents.
Torchbearer David Stern (L), the NBA Commissioner, and a female torchbearer run with the torch in San Francisco, the United States, April 9, 2008. San Francisco is the sixth stop of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games torch relay outside the Chinese mainland. [Xinhua]
The relay ran for two and half hours along the San Francisco area with the closing ceremony held at the airport.
Chinese Olympic swimming champion Lin Li, who was the first runner of the San Francisco relay, began her run by holding the torch high and waving to a cheering crowd. Nearly 80 torch-bearers, including some world-record holding athletes, participated in the relay.
San Francisco police announced the route had been changed due to threats by Tibetan separatists and their supporters to storm the relay, according to local TV KRON4.
At one point, Tibetan separatists tried to disrupt the torch relay. They tried to grab the torch, but were pushed back by police escorting the torch relay, a Xinhua correspondent witnessed.
Thousands of people gathered along the route of the relay under a sunny sky to show their support for the torch run in the U.S. city, which is the sixth leg of the torch's global journey.
Supporters of China's role as host of the Games were upholding Chinese national flags and displaying the Beijing Olympic mascot Fuwa on the city's waterfront.
Dozens of women dressed in red performed a drum dance to entertain people, drawing applauses from spectators. One dancer, Li Hua, told Xinhua that they traveled about 500 miles from Los Angeles to witness the historic torch relay.
Siu Yuen Chung, Chairman of the Chinese American Association of Commerce (CAAC), said before the start of the torch relay that, to give the Olympic flame a spectacular reception, tens of thousands of Chinese Americans will come out to cheer the torch relay.
While anxiously expecting the torch relay, many San Francisco citizens expressed dismay at attempts to link the Olympic Games with politics.
Shirley Olivo, a 75-year-old San Francisco native and grandmother of a Special Olympian, said carrying the torch and the Olympics should not really be about politics.
Chinese Ambassador to the United States Zhou Wenzhong said on Wednesday that the Olympic torch relay in San Francisco was "successful" under enthusiastic reception of the American public, including the Chinese Americans and overseas Chinese.
"The Olympics belongs to all, and the Olympic torch carries and passes around the Olympic spirit and advocates peace, friendship, harmony and cooperation," the ambassador said in a statement.
In disregard of the spirit of the Olympic Charter, a handful of forces attempted to disrupt the Olympic Games in Beijing, undermine China-U.S. relationship and denigrate China's image. Such unpopular action is doomed to fail, he said.
Zhou expressed the belief that the sacred flames of the Olympics will continue to burn brighter, the Olympic Games in Beijing will be a complete success and the Olympic spirit will be carried forward
The global torch relay started on April 1 in Almaty and stopped over in London and Paris before came to San Francisco on Tuesday.
The relatively smooth run of the San Francisco relay stood in striking contrast with those in London and Paris where Tibetan separatists repeatedly disrupted the torch relay to the indignation of locals and Chinese communities.