Cost of firing cauldron hot topic
Crown corp. responsible for Poole plaza unable to answer why so costly
Lighting costs for the Olympic Cauldron must be a hot topic — because the B.C. Pavilion Corp. was very reluctant to touch it Thursday.
While former Olympic host city Calgary lit its torch for the ongoing Games in Sochi that began Feb. 7, Vancouver’s four-armed cauldron on Jack Poole Plaza remained cold and dark, with only an LED light decoration.
Public outcry and private donations were enough to get PavCo, the Crown corporation responsible for the plaza, to light the cauldron Wednesday night.
The plan is to have the cauldron lit for two hours, starting at 6 p.m., on the days when Canada wins a gold medal, and on the final day of the Games in Russia.
The cost of lighting the cauldron was pegged at $5,000 for four hours or more than $200,000 if the flames were to burn throughout the Games. But answers to questions such as how much gas would be burned, how much it would cost and why it seemed so expensive were not readily available.
Kate Hudson, PavCo’s director of communications and stakeholder relations, finally said in an email Thursday that the “cost of lighting the Olympic Cauldron is more than just the fuel.”
“It includes specialist technicians and security personnel who have to be on site for the duration of each lighting during the Games,” she said. “The cumulative cost of more than $200,000 for the duration of the Games takes into account all of these factors.
“As you know, the Cauldron burns on natural gas delivered by Fortis B.C. ...
“In terms of specific details regarding the hourly fuel costs, I am unable to provide that information because there are so many variable factors.”
Hunter later explained the “specialist technicians “are “individuals from Fortis B.C. who manage the lighting and ensure it is a safe event.”
But a story published in The Tyee in 2010 and based on PavCo records contains figures for the first postGames lighting of the cauldron, on Canada Day. For 13 hours of flames, Terasen supplied 98.9 gigajoules of natural gas, which works out to an average of 7.6 gigajoules per hour. The cost then was $492.13 plus taxes.
The current residential rate for natural gas in the Lower Mainland is $9.69 per gigajoule. A 2,300-squarefoot home heated by natural gas with a new, high-efficiency furnace would use 51 gigajoules and cost $523 a year to supply.
It’s unclear if the 2010 costs included the “specialist technicians” and security that now have bumped the cauldron cost to the current rate of $5,000 for four hours.
The cauldron was created by gas company Terasen in partnership with the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee and then handed over to the Vancouver Convention Centre, which is run by PavCo.
Terasen was taken over by Fortis, which doesn’t give out private information such as how much its customers are spending to burn an Olympic cauldron.
People gathered to watch the Olympic Cauldron in downtown Vancouver as it was relit Wednesday night.