Total number of snuffings in modern history prior to today: Two. Total number of snuffings in the past three hours: Three. Thus does the tedious spectacle that is the Olympics momentarily become interesting:

The procession continued but, soon after, a crowd of activists waving Tibetan flags interrupted it for the first time by confronting the torchbearer on a road along the Seine River. The demonstrators did not appear to get close to the torch, but its flame was put out by security officers and brought on board a bus to continue along the route.

Less than an hour later, the flame was being carried out of a Paris traffic tunnel by an athlete in a wheelchair when the procession was halted by activists who booed and chanted “Tibet.” Once again, the torch was temporarily extinguished and put on a bus despite protesters’ apparent failure to get close.

Some 3,000 officers were deployed on motorcycles, in jogging gear and using inline roller skates. Still, police barely stopped the second rush at the torch, and the attempt to extinguish it with water. Other demonstrators scaled the Eiffel Tower and hung a banner depicting the Olympic rings as handcuffs.

The torch was extinguished for the third time when police interrupted the procession as a precaution because they spotted a crowd of demonstrators on a bridge they were approaching.

That last incident is captured below; if it’s too dull for you, try this clip from yesterday, when a protester in London tried to douse the torch with a fire extinguisher from a few feet away. Conventional wisdom has it that anything that embarrasses the ChiComs is all to the good, but read this shrewd Newsweek piece about the forces pulling the regime in opposite directions. The outcry over Tibet is making them nervous — but so is the outcry among their own youth, bred on nationalism and state propaganda, urging them not to back down from the west. It reminds me of the Saudis, caught forever between international opinion and the ire of the Frankenstein monster created by their domestic policies at home. The goal of giving Beijing the Olympics was to get them to open up. Hasn’t worked yet.

Read this Moran post too about San Francisco’s plans for protesters during the upcoming torch relay through the city. Surely a proud anti-authoritarian like Gavin Newsom is savoring the prospect of a little hardnosed dissent at the Chinese’s expense in his own backyard, no? Of course not, dummy; they’re protesting communists, not George Bush. Click the image to watch.

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