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In Paris, Olympic Torch Inflames Protesters

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Barack Obama's campaign may work like a successful startup, but he's been taking a lot of flat for his bowling game.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Last month in Altoona, Pennsylvania, Obama had trouble just keeping the ball out of the gutter. Hillary Clinton poked fun out it. She challenged Obama to a bowl-off.

NORRIS: Today, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres gave Clinton a chance to show off her game.

(Soundbite of people screaming)

SIEGEL: Clinton, like Obama, missed badly. On the second try, she took down one pin. It turns out neither Democratic candidate is ready to bowl on day one.

NORRIS: In more serious sporting news, Hillary Clinton said today that President Bush should boycott the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. This after a wild day in Paris where the Olympic torch procession did not go as planned.

(Soundbite of people protesting)

Crowds of protesters, many chanting "free Tibet," blocked the torch procession this morning. There was similar unrest yesterday in London.

Today in Paris, demonstrators clashed with police and threw fruit, bread and other items. The torch itself was extinguished several times and ultimately loaded onto a bus where it was driven for much of the path.

For more, we have Molly Moore. She's a Paris correspondent from the Washington Post and she joins us now from Paris.

Hello, Molly.

Ms. MOLLY MOORE (Paris Correspondent, Washington Post): Happy to be with you.

NORRIS: Now, could you set the scene for us? I understand there was no shortage of security out there for this relay.

Ms. MOORE: It was one of the most extraordinary displays of security Paris has seen in years. There were 3,000 police using every means of transport you can imagine from motorcycles, to rollerblades, to horses. There were security frogmen on boats in the Seine, there were helicopters whirring overhead, and the streets were lined with hundreds of police vans, in body armor and with riot shields and other riot gear.

NORRIS: Any idea how many protesters there were out there, how large this protest was?

Ms. MOORE: You know, it would be almost impossible to tell. This was a 17-mile route, and there were clashes with police all along the way. And, and several times, the officials had to take the flame and put it in a bus, as you mentioned earlier, to get it through the crowd. And what many people marveled at is, despite all this police presence, they couldn't manage to adequately protect the torch carriers.

NORRIS: Molly, can you tell us a little bit about the route.

Ms. MOORE: Sure. The route in several places was going through a relatively narrow street, which was heavily lined with police vans in some areas and barriers in some areas. But in other areas, there were bottlenecks with pro-China protesters on one side of the street, pro-Tibet protesters on the other side of the street. And in many cases, especially the pro-Tibet protesters just made lunges for the bubble that the torch carrier was in, and he was surrounded by six Chinese security guards plus a cadre of about a dozen French police on rollerblades. And so, very frequently throughout the route, you had protesters - sometimes even just one or two lunging into the narrow street. And in two cases, they almost extinguished the flame, but officials in the end, themselves, put out the flame or turned it very low and put it inside the bus to protect the torch and the torch bearers.

NORRIS: Now, the torch is coming to this country, to San Francisco, on Wednesday. Is there any indication that there might be more protests?

Ms. MOORE: Absolutely. And in fact, some Olympic committee officials today were raising the question of whether these torch relays should continue because, of course, San Francisco is particularly vulnerable because there's such a large Chinese and Asian community in San Francisco with obviously very divided opinions on the situation in Tibet and China. So, officials are very concerned about what could happen there.

NORRIS: Molly Moore, thanks so much for talking to us.

Ms. MOORE: It's a pleasure.

NORRIS: Molly Moore is the Paris correspondent for the Washington Post. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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