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the olympic torched

The Olympic flame has been having a somewhat fiery journey across the continents on its way to Beijing, but in terms of eventfulness, Japan appears to have taken the gold.

Yesterday it came to Nagano, a leafy suburb on the outskirts of Tokyo. Many people turned out to get a glimpse of the sacred flame and to cheer on the relay runners carrying it.

But following recent Tibet-related protests in other countries, Nagano police were keen to ensure that there would be no such disruptions in Japan.

This resulted in Nagano officials deciding to scale down the course that the torch runners would take. The original route would have seen the sacred flame carried through mangroves and industrial estates, over a distance of 11 miles.

The original plan was to have 80 runners each having their turn at carrying the torch in a relay-style run. But the revised route would've resulted in each runner holding the torch for just 1.63 seconds. This would've probably looked like a mass brawl, which could well have attracted the attention of the police, so 78 torch bearers were discarded.

The crowd was more than displeased with the new arrangements as it meant that they might not get a glimpse of the hallowed torch.

Nagano officials wanted a peaceful, harmonious, incident-free relay, and that's exactly what they didn't get.

Thanks to a heavy police presence, a frustrated crowd and a freak gust of wind, it all went horribly wrong.

However, it started well, with broad smiles and a whiff of optimism in the air.

Prior to the start of the relay, members of the public were given the opportunity to grip the torch as tightly as possible.

The relay gets under way.

The police had promised to deal with any protesters using a softly-softly approach, and it wasn't long before they had a chance to demonstrate this tactic when a protester lunged for the torch bearer.

Police politely ask the man to refrain from lunging.

Midway through the relay, the fateful gust of wind blew strong and hard, causing the torch to set fire to the second runner.

However, the police failed to notice, being too wrapped up with other business....

It was only when the flaming runner took drastic action to put out the fire that the police realised there was an incident to deal with....

The torch holder leaps majestically into a river, performing a near perfect double somersault and tucked triple salco before hitting the water like a concrete slab.

Meanwhile the fire spread and took hold of the entire city.

The low point of the afternoon came when the innocent Piwi the Penguin (the animal mascot of Nagano) was knocked to the ground by riot police who mistook him for a deranged psychopath when actually it was just a yakitori shop owner trying to inject some fun into the proceedings.

Floored: Piwi is now in intensive care.

Tonight, Nagano is little more than a smouldering mass of charred chopsticks and frazzled penguin feathers.

Nagano smokes.
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On Sunday, 27 April, 2008, Blogger Matt Morelli said:

Hahahahah! Absolutely brilliant!  

On Sunday, 27 April, 2008, Anonymous Reverend Rogers said:

One of those riot police seems to be wearing a kind of Mickey Mouse mask. I suppose it makes sense seeing that the Japanese like cute stuff.  

On Monday, 28 April, 2008, Anonymous Neil Duckett said:

Original Route - Revised Route .... HILARIOUS!  

On Monday, 28 April, 2008, Anonymous jonny taise said:

you're an absolute funny bastard!

On Monday, 28 April, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said:

Oh my, that really got out of hand.  

On Tuesday, 29 April, 2008, Blogger tornadoes28 said:


On Tuesday, 29 April, 2008, Anonymous ThePenguin said:

I'd just like to point out that the penguin in one of the above pictures is not me, I was attending a calligraphy course at a Zen temple at the time and have witnesses to prove it.

Also, the policeman in the mask looking for bicycles to stop bears a suspicious resemblance to that Danny Choo guy in his stormtrooper outfit.  

On Tuesday, 29 April, 2008, Anonymous Steebu said:

Looks like penguin yakitori will be on the menu tonight.  

On Wednesday, 30 April, 2008, Anonymous jacl said:

It was hard to believe that this actually happened! It sounded like something that should be in a movie or TV program since it was so bizarre and ironically funny -- to have changed the original course, decreasing the runners from 80 to 2 and yet have all those problems (protesters, fire) and accidents (runner on fire, riot police knocking down poor Piwi the mascot)!

Thank you for writing about all this.  

On Friday, 02 May, 2008, Anonymous jacl said:

Dear An Englishman in Osaka,

Thank you for sharing your humor. I am sorry that I did not realize that you were writing "tongue-in-cheek" and that this was a suppose to be a parody of the incident.

I did find articles on the Internet and was surprised to find that it was still 18 kilometers (11.7 miles) with 80 runners. The 3,000 police helped and they had 5 arrests with only 4 injuries. Each runner had 5 police around them plus 2 Chinese flame guards in blue and white and 50 police in running gear flanking them so that the Free Tibet movement and the pro-China demonstrators could not get near them.

Sigh! It was a good story too....  

On Friday, 02 May, 2008, Anonymous scotty.vor said:

Be prepared for the next Englishman post jacl. The one where he tries to convince us we're all already dead from nuclear warfare and Arnold Schwarzenegger's feet.

I'm told there will be pictures too.  

On Saturday, 03 May, 2008, Anonymous manly stuff in general said:


On Monday, 05 May, 2008, Blogger Pablo said:

Hi, very nice

I laughed my ass off because of the penguin picture.

If you want to know more:

I'm pretty sure that picture was taken here in Chile.

We call the school students "Pinguinos" (Penguins) because of their uniforms looks like a penguin.

Last year they protested because of the education, several riots were done, and lots of great pictures were taken.  

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