SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The Olympic torch relay has begun in San Francisco, where authorities cut its route roughly in half to keep demonstrators from disrupting the flame's symbolic journey to the Beijing Games.
At the opening ceremony Wednesday afternoon, the first torchbearer took the flame from a lantern brought to the stage and held it aloft before quickly departing again behind the scenes.
About a half hour earlier, San Francisco officials cut the original six-mile route to 3 1/2 miles. Authorities did not offer an immediate explanation for the change, but city officials had warned they might truncate the route at the last minute for security reasons.
Already Wednesday, there have been heated exchanges between supporters of China's role hosting the Olympic Games and opponents of the Beijing government's human rights record.