Olympic torch relay begins altered route through San Francisco

The Olympic torch relay got under way Wednesday, promptly vanished, then reappeared about a mile (2 kilometers) inland from its planned route, away from protesters and media. The altered plans appeared to be prompted by security concerns with thousands of protesters gathered along the relay route at the San Francisco Bay waterfront. The flame's only North American stop has drawn massive rallies to praise and condemn China during the flame's journey to Beijing. At the torch's opening ceremony at McCovey Cove near the city's baseball stadium Wednesday afternoon, the first torchbearer took the flame from a lantern brought to the stage and held it aloft before quickly departing again into a warehouse. The torch then disappeared from public view for about half an hour, while it was covertly driven about a mile inland from its expected location to Van Ness Avenue, a main artery through the city. The torch reemerged away from the crowds and was handed to two people who began the relay. The confusion surrounding the flame's route began earlier Wednesday, when officials announced that they would cut the planned 6-mile (10-kilometer) route nearly in half.