Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Cauldron as Symbol

At the Olympics opening ceremonies a huge cauldron on Vancouver's waterfront was unveiled and lit.  Shortly after that it was revealed that the cauldron would be kept in place after the games.  What is not so clear is if the cauldron will remain lit indefinitely or only for special occasions.

The media has focused on the controversial fence surrounding the flame.  But many people have come forth to question the cauldron itself.

Prior to the games there was much speculation that this cauldron might be a radical departure from previous games in keeping with the "greenest games" theme that VANOC was trying to promote.  Some people promoted the idea of a "cauldron" that used efficient LED lighting powered by BC's relatively clean power sources.

Instead VANOC chose a cauldron that consisted of not one but four huge natural gas flames.  Compared to the huge greenhouse gas footprint that the games will leave, the emissions from these flames are relatively minor.

But, more important is the symbolism associated with the cauldron.  If VANOC was really taking sustainability seriously why didn't they choose a design that produced fewer emissions than previous cauldrons?  Even if they had to keep a small flame there could have been a spectacular design that combined a smaller flame with some LED lighting.

And one has to question the symbolism of the city of Vancouver keeping the flame around even if it is only lit occasionally.

photo by GillTy. / CC BY-NC 2.0

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