My views on the Chinese Olympics aside, the Olympic torch relay is the type of clusterfuck that I would avoid like the plague. Unfortunately I found myself on the last bus across the Galata Bridge, just before they shut all the major streets down between Sultanahmet and Taksim for the passing of the torch. Istanbul traffic is static in the best of circumstances; shutting down streets in the middle of the day is a disaster.
I should have noticed the heavily armed riot police on every corner and police helicopters overhead before even leaving my couch, but if I stayed home every time the Turks put heavily armed riot police on every street corner, I would become a bigger hermit than I already am.
Faced with the prospect of neither arriving at my destination nor being able to get back home, I decided to watch. As it happened, a torch transfer happened two feet from where I was standing. I don't know who the guy was who was taking the torch, but the TV cameras were pretty excited about him. Maybe a Turkish reader knows.
The manufactured display of excitement was just as corporate as you'd expect, with the flags of Coca-Cola and Samsung more prevalent than the national flag of the country we stood in. Yay globalization!
The relay failed to attract much attention on the streets of Sultanahmet. Most Turks and tourists seemed happy enough to be able to walk up blocked Alemdar Cad. and not get squished between the tram and a taxi