So, if a tree falls in the forest .. and no one is there to hear it fall ... is there a sound?

If an Olympic Torch relay ... moves to a secret location, down side streets to avoid protestors and ends up also avoiding cheering crowds ... is there a Torch Run?

First, it is a shame that the Olympics ... supposedly the unifier of all nations ... is a target of controversy.

That's not to say that protestors don't have just cause to demonstrate; it's just that is a shame that the Olympic flame and all it represents ... is basically smothered.

The San Francisco run (which included Chesterfield resident Bill Schmidt) was to be the only time the Olympic Flame appeared in the U.S. in advance of the coming games. Thousands in San Francisco were looking forward to watching the run; they had gathered along the route ... but so had protestors. Security officers decided to continue the run ... but switch the route ... away from demonstrators .. but also the cheering crowds.

Still, some protestors were able to catch up to the Olympic Flame and cause minor trouble.

Hundreds of news crews documented the "relay" ... but this shining event ... was tarnished.

Of course, this is not the first time controversy has surrounded the games.

Most agree that the most controversial time involved the Berlin Games in 1936. The games were awarded to Germany before Hitler came to power. Ironically, even though the torch relay started in ancient Greece --- the Nazis revived it as the modern day run; they did it not to just promote the games ... but mainly stroke Nazi ego and self-glorification.

The next biggest boycott was in 1980. President Carter said the United States would not attend the games in Moscow. That was a protest against the Soviet Union invading Afghanistan the year before; 64 other nations joined the U.S. boycott.

In retaliation, the Soviets boycotted the 1984 Olympics. An interesting point light of today's protest ... there was a newcomer to those games. China --- participated for the first time since 1932.

So, we've come full circle again. Now, because China is the host nation... there are protests ... calls for President Bush to at least not attend the opening ceremonies.

Ah, if we could relive the relative calm of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens; that's when we saw the first global run of the Olympic Torch with 34 cities in 27 countries.

It was the 100th Anniversary of the Olympic Games, and St. Louis was one of 4 American cities to host the relay.

On June 17, 2004, 132 area residents ran the Olympic Flame through 34 miles of our region. The event concluded that evening in Forest Park with 3 time Olympic medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee as the final torchbearer.

I also remember some of the national campaign spots showing Americans watching, applauding as the torch passed. I especially remember one spot showing 2 ranchers, taking a break from their work, leaning on a barb wire fence to watch the Olympic Torch pass.

Those images reflect what the Olympic Flame is supposed to represent.

Unfortunately, in these days .. where there's an Olympic flame .. there's smoke ... the smoke of controversy.

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