Peaceful protesters using the Beijing Olympics as a world stage to protest China's human rights record scaled the Golden Gate Bridge on Monday, while a continent away, confrontations in Paris forced an early end to the torch relay.

But so far, the idea of protests and scuffles have not deterred one man from planned participation in Wednesday's torch run along San Francisco's waterfront, the only North American leg of the relay.

"My friends are joking that since I'm 6-foot-3, I'm the big target," said Mark Henderson, 38, of Oakland, a swimmer who won gold and set an Olympic and world record in the 400-meter relay at the 1996 games in Atlanta. "I guess I'll be ducking and dodging."

On a more serious note, Henderson — whose wife, Tamara, and 9-month-old daughter, Brooke, will be there Wednesday to cheer him on — said his "purpose and passion" for participating in the torch run is pushing aside any fears he might have.

"I'm doing it for the athletes that don't have a voice," he said, referring to Paralympic athletes who are not as well known and other world-class athletes who never made it to the Olympics.

As chairman of the Athletes Advisory Council for the U.S. Olympic Committee, Henderson said he's more worried that young athletes will be induced to wear T-shirts or other attire that is deemed offensive by the Chinese government and will not be allowed to participate in the games, or worse. He said human rights groups are pressuring athletes to participate in protests in some form or another.

Protests have met the Olympic torch and preceded its scheduled arrival in San Francisco.

The San Francisco Police Department has expressed mounting concern about its ability to provide safe passage for the Olympic torch relay after swarms of activists protesting China's human rights record shut down the event in Paris on Monday, forcing officials to snuff out the iconic flame repeatedly.

Traditionally a celebratory show that whets the appetite for the Olympics, the torch relay this year has turned into a rolling — and intensifying — confrontation over the Chinese government's religious and political persecution. The superpower's recent actions in Tibet have been a particular focus.

Authorities in San Francisco said they had closely watched events in London on

Sunday and in Paris.

We have a lot of concerns," said Sgt. Neville Gittens, a San Francisco police spokesman. "I don't want to identify them, but this is not a contained route security-wise, and there are lots of opportunities for trouble. We're watching what's going on very closely and will make changes to our plans as we figure them out."

Mayor Gavin Newsom on Monday met with Chinese officials in San Francisco to review security measures, which include requiring all rank-and-file police officers to report to work Wednesday. Meanwhile, at least two neighboring police departments have been asked to provide reinforcements, the California Highway Patrol will be on hand, and the FBI is on standby, officials said.

According to wire services, 2,000 London security officers were assigned Sunday to protect the torch relay, which was marred by 30 arrests and efforts to douse the flame with a fire extinguisher.

In San Francisco, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a news release announcing it was restricting access to air space below 3,000 feet along the torch route from 12:30 to 5 p.m. Wednesday. The ban on private aircraft does not extend to Med-Evac and other emergency flights in contact with air traffic controllers.

"We're doing this to help ensure the safe operation of the high number of law enforcement helicopters that will be flying in limited airspace above the relay course," wrote Ian Gregor, communications manager of the FAA Western-Pacific Region.

Seven people were detained Monday on the Golden Gate Bridge, including three climbers who scaled the support cables and unfurled banners saying "Free Tibet 08" and "One World One Dream. Free Tibet." The climbers were members of Berkeley-based Students for a Free Tibet, the same group which unfurled a large banner over the side of the Great Wall in China in August.

The spectacle brought traffic to a near standstill. Mary Currie, spokesperson for the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District, said the climbers will likely be charged with criminal trespassing.

Louise and Jon McKay were visiting San Francisco from Edinburgh, Scotland, to celebrate their wedding anniversary when they were caught up in the mess. They had plann-ed to cycle across the bridge, but the sidewalks were closed.

"The protesters probably have a point, but don't ruin my holiday," Jon McKay said.

But T.C. Tethong, a Tibetan who traveled from his home in Canada to see the protests, was glad of it.

"The campaign against the Olympics in China is encouraging," he said. "The situation in China and Tibet is heavily suppressed."

Two-time Olympic pentathlete Marilyn King, 58, of Oakland, said she would not let the protesters deter her from realizing her goal of carrying the torch. She is an educator who teaches youngsters the Olympic athlete method of envisioning and realizing their dreams. And she would never dream of giving up.

"Of course we would all be foolish not to have some anxiety, but I do not have fear," she said. "I might get jostled, I might get knocked down, but I don't have any considerations about not participating."

King said she's a peace activist, but she is looking forward to talking about something other than protests.

"I believe we should shine a light on things that are not right in the world," she said, "but they need to (shift) from awareness ... to what can they do now," such as economic boycotts.

Correspondents Jenna Loceff and Sean Maher and the Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.

Contact Cecily Burt at or 510-208-6441.