Public can get closer to flame but cauldron still behind fence
VANCOUVER (CP) — Vancouver Games officials have opened a rooftop viewing platform to give the public a great look at the Olympic cauldron, stemming controversy over its location behind a chain-link fence.
About 150 people at a time can go up to the platform on the roof of a one-storey building beside the waterfront plaza that is home to the 2010 cauldron.
The chain-link fence that infuriated those who wanted to have a look at the Games icon will remain, but it will be moved closer to the cauldron, allowing a somewhat improved view from the street.
Thousands of Olympic fans have been filing past the flame, which was lit by hockey legend Wayne Gretzky at the Games’ opening ceremonies and will continue to burn for the duration of the Games.
Most were surprised and upset to find it originally behind a fence covered in blueand-green Olympic bunting.
Games CEO John Furlong said officials hadn’t anticipated the desire of the public to see the cauldron.
“The Olympic cauldron is a powerful symbol and the desire to get as close to it as possible has been remarkable - more than we expected,” Furlong said in a statement.
“ We are pleased to provide enhanced opportunities for all to see the cauldron in its spectacular waterfront setting - at its best.”
Workers toiled overnight to move the existing fence about 25 metres closer to the massive steel and glass structure that sits on a downtown waterfront plaza.
At eye level in the fence, there is now a gap and early morning sightseers Wednesday were already sticking their cameras through for a clear shot.
The official said crowd control procedures had to be worked out before they could allow people up the stairs and onto the deck for the bird’s eye view of the flame.
The viewing platform will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
The flame has been a 24-hour attraction in downtown Vancouver since Gretzky lit the outdoor cauldron, but controversy bubbled after it was locked behind bars because it sits in a security zone for the Games.
Organizers said placing the cauldron next to the International Broadcast Centre did put it far closer than Olympic flames of past Games — they usually burn in or atop Olympic stadiums.
But the symbolism of placing the flame behind a fence became a symbol all itself.
Even as construction was going on early Wednesday, people were still angry that a fence was put up in the first place.
“I would love it if they took down the fence,” said Scott Crisp, who came to Vancouver from Victoria. “It seems a little obscure there would be a fence in front of the flame.”
The International Olympic Committee wasn’t impressed with the scene, with more than one member saying they didn’t like the fence and wanted Vancouver organizers to come up with something better.
After days of meetings that involved site visits and a review of existing security plans, they appear to have nixed some of their earlier ideas like replacing the chain-link with Plexiglas.
Vancouver organizers recognized the need for an external cauldron years ago when it became clear that their plans for indoor opening ceremonies — B.C. Place stadium is covered by a billowy fabric roof — would require an outdoor home for the flame.
So they settled on what they thought was an excellent location: a downtown waterfront plaza that could permanently accommodate the massive gas-fed steel and glass structure, which stands 10 metres high.
It was going to be a legacy and the committee takes the idea of legacy very seriously — no venue was built, no contract awarded, no decision made without a conversation about how it could benefit the community both now and in the future.