SAN FRANCISCO--In a switcheroo that threw off hundreds of protesters and put Twitter and text-message alert systems to the test, city officials here decided to take the Olympic torch relay on a far different route Wednesday than had been previously announced.
The relay had been highly anticipated, largely because of security concerns related to protesters who--fueled by Web campaigns--came out in droves to oppose the Chinese government's plans to carry the torch through Tibet, or more generally, the government's overall human rights record.
As crowds of spectators and protesters awaited the torch along the city's Embarcadero and at the foot of the Market Street thoroughfare, the relay took off by bus in the opposite direction to Van Ness Avenue and then into the Marina District in the north part of the city, according to news reports. That set off a storm of Twitters--some of which were pasted onto this page at SFist--and a constant stream of text messages as people tried to figure out what was happening and which direction to head.
"We are reorganizing the protest, sending text messages with minute-by-minute updates on where the torches are," said a member of protest organizer SF Team Tibet. "People are using their cell phones, BlackBerrys, and PDAs. We are also updating media though our phones, sending pictures."
The SF Team Tibet member added: "It would be really, really hard if we didn't have this. Can you imagine if the protesters in Lhasa had this technology? Witnesses could just send things in."
Of course, such forms of instant communication are only so reliable--I'm on an sms feed from SF Team Tibet and am still trying to sort out what's accurate and what's just rumor. It seems the planned closing ceremony was canceled and the torch is now enroute to the airport. (Followers are encouraged.)
CNET News.com's Hanna Sistek contributed to this report.