San Francisco Braces for Torch Protests

San Francisco officials are bracing for protests Wednesday, when the Olympic torch is scheduled to pass through as part of the international leg of the relay leading up to this summer's Beijing Olympics. It will be the torch's only appearance in North America.

Featuring up to 80 runners, the San Francisco portion of the relay will be under a microscope after International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge told the Associated Press today that the IOC will consider cancelling the rest of the international relay.

The possible change in plans follows two days of chaotic protests as the torch was carried through the streets of London and Paris.

Demonstrators protesting Chinese policy climbed the Golden Gate bridge on Monday and unfurled pro-Tibet independence banners. That prompted San Francisco officials to announce today that they reserve the right to change the route of the relay right up to and even during the run. The San Francisco Examiner reports that officials have already decided to shorten the route.

U.S. Olympic Committee chairman Peter Ueberroth said in a statement that the event was crucial for San Francisco. The relay is "an important moment for the city to show its character, hospitality and commitment to peace and tolerance," he said.

Rogge told the AP that he was "deeply saddened" by chaotic protests in London and Paris the last two days and is worried about the upcoming San Francisco leg.

The decision to scrap the rest of the tour could come as early as Friday, when the committee's executive panel meets. The torch arrived early today at San Francisco's airport.

ABC News has been told that at least one of the relay runners has pulled out of the event, citing safety concerns.

The torch so far has been met with protests in London and Paris, where demonstrators tried to extinguish the flame. In Paris on Monday, dozens of protesters jostled with police so persistently that officials were forced several times to make an unprecedented decision to extinguish the flame and halt the procession. The end of the relay was ultimately canceled.

In China today, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu refused to concede the Paris relay had been marred by protests and cut short, insisting it was "successfully completed." China is also flatly denying reports that the torch or flame was extinguished at any time.

"The holy flame of the Olympics belongs to people worldwide. The disruption and sabotage of the torch relay is a challenge to the Olympic charter and spirit, the world legal system and peace-loving people around the world," Jiang told reporters.

Sen. Hillary Clinton called Monday for President George W. Bush to boycott the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing. On ABC's "Good Morning America" today, Clinton said that the Olympics are "an international event, not a Chinese event," and said Bush should not have "given away" the option of not attending the ceremony.

But Clinton stopped short of calling for a boycott of the entire Olympic games." I don't believe that that's the right approach to take. What we're trying to do is influence the Chinese government. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the moment to put pressure on the Chinese, because they are so concerned about how they will be perceived. " Clinton told "GMA." The traditional Olympic torch relay has never been the target of political protests, experts say.

"Never before has this happened," said Anthony Bykerk, the secretary general of the International Society of Olympic Historians, of the protests surrounding the Olympic torch. "This is the first time that the torch relay has ever been an element of protest -- it's usually a very big celebration."

While protests and political agendas have often come to the forefront during and leading up to Olympics, said Bykerk, the events of the past couple of days — and the San Francisco incident — are especially troubling.

"This is worse because now they are protesting against the torch relay, which has nothing to do with politics but is supposed to be a symbol of unity — not used as protest," said Bykerk. "If these people want to protest against the human rights question in Tibet, they should have done it 50 years ago."

Protest groups are rallying their supporters and officials are scrambling to prepare for what may be another display of anti-China sentiment.

U.S. Braces for Torch Protests

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, who told reporters Monday that the department is working with law enforcement in San Francisco in preparation for the torch's arrival, emphasized the importance of finding a balance between the rights of the protesters and the rights of the event's organizers.

"I think everybody, it goes without saying, wants to have this be an event that is secure, is one that helps reflect the Olympic spirit, but also respects people's fundamental rights in this country to express themselves — peacefully express themselves," said McCormack. "So the folks in San Francisco have the lead in making sure that balance is appropriate."

SF Team Tibet, a coalition of Tibetans in the San Francisco area, is using its Web site to organize protesters and "shine the Olympic spotlight on China's atrocities in occupied Tibet," according to a statement on its site.

The group has posted an hour-by-hour schedule for Wednesday's torch relay and even provides a link for volunteers to print their own protest signs.

Despite the indications that protests will continue to occur in San Francisco, city officials aren't backing down, said McCormack.

"City officials have clearly said, and we support this, that they want this event to be able to take place," said McCormack. "But we also have a core and fundamental value here in the United States that people should be able to express themselves peacefully."

Sgt. Neville Gittens of the San Francisco Police Department declined to give specifics on the city's security measures for , but told ABCNEWS.com that police are "monitoring events that have happened and are adjusting their plan accordingly."

"Days off were canceled for all members, including our patrolmen, sergeants and inspectors back in January for this particular event," said.

"Our goal is to make sure that we provide a safe environment for all participants," said Gittens. "And if individuals take part in acts of civil disobedience or other criminal acts, force will be taken against them."

"But at the same time, we will protect the First Amendment rights of all individuals attending the event," added Gittens.

ABC News' Stephanie Sy , Luis Martinez and Laura Marquez contributed to this report.

After anti-Chinese protesters wreaked havoc during the Olympic torch relay in Europe the last two days, the head of the International Olympic Committee today raised the possibility that the torch run may have to be canceled.

The option emerged one day before the torch was scheduled to be run in San Francisco, which is braced for protests. Activists already climbed the Golden Gate bridge on Monday and unfurled pro-Tibet banners.

IOC President Jacques Rogge told The Associated Press the committee will consider ending the international leg of the torch relay that leads up to this summer's Beijing Olympics.

Rogge told the AP that he was "deeply saddened" by chaotic protests in London and Paris the last two days and is worried about the upcoming torch relay in San Francisco.

The decision could come as early as Friday, when the committee's executive panel meets.

The torch arrived early today at San Francisco's airport a day after pro-Tibetan protests scaled the Golden Gate bridge to unfurl banners ahead of Wednesday's planned torch run.

ABC News has been told that at least one of the relay runners has pulled out of the event, citing safety concerns.

The torch so far has been met with protests in London and Paris where demonstrators tried to extinguish the flame. In Paris, Monday, dozens of protesters jostled with police so persistently that officials were forced several times to make an unprecedented decision to extinguish the flame and halt the procession. The end of the relay was ultimately canceled.

In China, today, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu refused to concede the Paris relay had been marred by protests and cut short, insisting it was "successfully completed." China is also flatly denying reports that the torch or flame was extinguished at any time.

"The holy flame of the Olympics belongs to people worldwide. The disruption and sabotage of the torch relay is a challenge to the Olympic charter and spirit, the world legal system and peace loving people around the world," Jiang told reporters.

Sen. Hillary Clinton called Monday for President Bush to boycott the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing. On ABC's "Good Morning America" today, Clinton said, the Olympics are "an international event, not a Chinese event," and said Bush should not have "given away" the option of not attending the ceremony.

But Clinton stopped short of calling for a boycoot of the entire Olympic games."I don't believe that that's the right approach to take. What we're trying to do is influence the Chinese Government. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the moment to put pressure on the Chinese, because they are so concerned about how they will be perceived. " Clinton told "GMA." The traditional Olympic torch relay has never been the target of political protests, experts say.

"Never before has this happened," said Anthony Bykerk, the secretary general of the International Society of Olympic Historians, of the protests surrounding the Olympic torch. "This is the first time that the torch relay has ever been an element of protest -- it's usually a very big celebration."

While protests and political agendas have often come to the forefront during and leading up to Olympics, said Bykerk, the events of the past couple of days — and the San Francisco incident — are especially troubling.

"This is worse because now they are protesting against the torch relay, which has nothing to do with politics but is supposed to be a symbol of unity — not used as protest," said Bykerk. "If these people want to protest against the human rights question in Tibet, they should have done it 50 years ago."

Protest groups are rallying their supporters and officials are scrambling to prepare for what may be another display of anti-China sentiment.

U.S. Braces for Torch Protests

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, who told reporters Monday that the department is working with law enforcement in San Francisco in preparation for the torch's arrival, emphasized the importance of finding a balance between the rights of the protesters and the rights of the event's organizers.

"I think everybody, it goes without saying, wants to have this be an event that is secure, is one that helps reflect the Olympic spirit, but also respects people's fundamental rights in this country to express themselves — peacefully express themselves," said McCormack. "So the folks in San Francisco have the lead in making sure that balance is appropriate."

SF Team Tibet, a coalition of Tibetans in the San Francisco area, is using its Web site to organize protesters and "shine the Olympic spotlight on China's atrocities in occupied Tibet," according to a statement on its site.

The group has posted an hour-by-hour schedule for Wednesday's torch relay and even provides a link for volunteers to print their own protest signs.

Despite the indications that protests will continue to occur in San Francisco, city officials aren't backing down, said McCormack.

"City officials have clearly said, and we support this, that they want this event to be able to take place," said McCormack. "But we also have a core and fundamental value here in the United States that people should be able to express themselves peacefully."

Sgt. Neville Gittens of the San Francisco Police Department declined to give specifics on the city's security measures for Wednesday, but told ABCNEWS.com that police are "monitoring events that have happened and are adjusting their plan accordingly."

"Days off were canceled for all members, including our patrolmen, sergeants and inspectors back in January for this particular event," said Gittens of the increase in police force.

"Our goal is to make sure that we provide a safe environment for all participants," said Gittens. "And if individuals take part in acts of civil disobedience or other criminal acts, force will be taken against them."

"But at the same time, we will protect the First Amendment rights of all individuals attending the event," added Gittens.

In an e-mail statement to ABCNEWS.com, a spokesperson for the International Olympic Committee declined to comment on the "relay play-by-play" but said that the organization did "respect the rights of local communities to manage peaceful and non-peaceful demonstrations, as they deem necessary to maintain order."

"We would also hope that the rights of those who have the honor of carrying the torch and those who have turned out to support it are respected too," the statement read.

ABC News' Stephanie Sy , Luis Martinez and Laura Marquez contributed to this report.