by Moody Adams The Beijing Olympics torch arrived in San Francisco early Tuesday for its only stop in North America during a 130-day relay on its way to China.
The flame initially was scheduled to be passed by dozens of runners along a 6-mile route, but Mayor Gavin Newsom said Tuesday the route would be shortened because of security concerns. The Olympic flame is kept in a nearby lantern that is heavily guarded; there are backup lanterns carrying a flame in case there's a problem.
Key facts about the Olympic torch:
In the ancient Olympics, which began in Greece in 776 B.C., a fire was kept burning to honor Zeus, the father of Greek gods and goddesses.
The modern Olympics began in 1896, but a flame wasn't used until the Amsterdam Games in 1928, when one was built into an Olympic stadium tower. It was seen as a symbolic link between the old and new games. The torch now is ignited several months before the Games at the ruins of the Temple of Hera, in Olympia, southern Greece, site of the ancient Olympics.
The first modern Olympic torch relay was introduced in the 1936 Berlin Games, an Olympics awash in the propaganda of Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime.
Until the 2004 Games in Athens, the relay largely was an event that went from Greece to the host nation. With Greece hosting the Games in 2004, the torch was carried on a worldwide tour through 27 nations.
Other recent controversies involving the torch:
2005: In December, the torch en route to the Winter Games in Torino, Italy, was stopped in Genoa by 100 protesters who opposed globalization and construction of a local high-speed railway. The torch was extinguished as a precaution.
2007: In September, Taiwan officials announced they would not receive the Beijing torch as part of the relay's domestic route in China. Taiwan, a self-ruled island China claims as its own, wanted to be part of the international route. Angry Chinese officials canceled plans for Taiwan to take part in the relay.