Mon, September 23, 2013

Olympic flame out of sight in London

By BOB MACKIN, QMI Agency

LONDON - If you come to Olympic Park hoping to take a photograph of the Olympic cauldron, you’re out of luck until the track and field competition begins Aug. 3.

The 204 burning, copper petals — representing each of the national Olympic committees entered in London 2012 — are only visible for those who have tickets and passes to enter the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium.

“It’s partly in keeping, of course, with what we did in 1948,” said LOCOG chairman Sebastian Coe on Sunday. “It’s actually up on the large (video) screen in the stadium at the moment.”

The cement London 1948 cauldron remains on display in the new Wembley Stadium. The simple cauldron from the first post-World War II Games could only be seen inside the original Wembley when London last hosted the Olympics.

Seven teenaged athletes who were nominated by British sporting greats lit the cauldron at the ceremony’s climax after the flame was brought to East London in a boat containing soccer superstar David Beckham.

The 8.5-metre tall cauldron was created by London artist Thomas Heatherwick. Each of the petals was carried into the stadium during the athletes’ march and the cauldron assembled piece-by-piece. The sculpture will be dismantled at the end of the Games and each national Olympic committee will receive a petal to take home.

A camera is trained on the cauldron 24 hours a day throughout the Games and available to rights-holding broadcasters.

“We’re different from Vancouver,” Coe said. “If I’m being honest with you it wasn’t created as a tourist attraction, it is in the Olympic Stadium and it will remain in the Olympic Stadium.”

Recent Olympics, however, have brought the iconic Olympia, Greece-lit flame closer to the people, many of whom are tourists.

Beijing 2008’s flame burned in a giant scroll attached to the rim of the roof at the Bird’s Nest and could be seen throughout the Chinese capital’s Olympic Green.

Vancouver 2010 turned off the ceremonial cauldron inside B.C. Place Stadium after Wayne Gretzky lit a permanent replica outdoors in Jack Poole Plaza on the opening night of the most recent Winter Games.

VANOC bowed to public and media pressure and moved fences closer to the five-burner, glass and steel sculpture at the Vancouver Convention Centre when it became the biggest free attraction in the Olympic city.

The cauldron is lit annually on Remembrance Day and for various public and private events.

Cauldrons for Montreal 1976 and Calgary 1988 both burned inside the stadiums, but an auxiliary cauldron lit atop the Calgary Tower could be seen for kilometres.