San Francisco, CA, April 9. US Biathlon Executive Director Max Cobb (Westford, VT) was among the select group of 80 people that carried the Olympic torch in its only North American appearance. The Torch Relay in San Francisco is part of a planned 85,000-mile journey for the Olympic Flame before it arrives in Beijing in August.
USBA Chairman Larry Pugh commented on Cobb’s selection, â€œThe USOC selected six people to carry the Torch that embodied the spirit of the Olympic movement. Max's enthusiasm for the Olympic movement is clear in everything he does and this is a very well deserved honor.â€
The event was marked by the presence of thousands of protesters, reacting to China's human rights record at home, in Tibet, and Darfur. Supporters of both sides held permits to demonstrate during the torch ceremony. The protests resulted in the relay route changing at the last minute. This change, and a shortening of the course, kept the torch away from demonstrators and spectators alike.
Cobb did not hesitate to accept the honor of caring the torch, telling FasterSkier that he believes “the world needs more Olympic days.”
Cobb expounded on this when asked if he sees the Olympics as an appropriate forum for the discussion of political issues –
“I believe in free speech and peaceful protest! The protests of the Olympic Games in China are coming to the Torch Relay because there is no opportunity for such protests in China. This extended event is a force for good – it helps shine a light on places and issues that cannot be discussed openly in many places – including the host nation. People who feel the Olympics should not be held in Beijing don't understand the movement very well. It is all about building common understanding between individuals – ordinary people of the world (though extraordinary athletes), not politicians and diplomats, but citizens. It is about the discussions that come out of these meetings, involving both those who participate and those who watch around the world. The Olympic movement needs to go on regardless of geo-political issues – participation by citizens of all the nations of the world will do more to make the world a better place than any boycott of the Games ever could.”
Selected by the USOC as one of two runners from the US sport National Governing Bodies that make up the Olympic family, Cobb was not expecting the to be in San Francisco. “It was a huge surprise for me and it was an honor to carry the Olympic flame.”
All told, 80 torch bearers participated in San Francisco, most of them selected in an essay contest.
“Teachers, students, a journalist, an ultra-marathoner, a four time Olympian, a woman in the coast guard, and the former mayor of San Francisco, Willie Brown, were all there. It was a wonderful group to spend the day with.”
Read full coverage of the event and protests on CBC.com:
San Francisco Olympic torch run moved amid protests
Larry Buendorf – USOC security chief