Free the flame, Olympic fans say

Olympic fans take pictures of the cauldron Tuesday morning, before the daily crowds gather.



VANCOUVER – The location of the Olympic cauldron on the Vancouver waterfront is ideal – if you’re allowed into the main media centre.

If you’re an Olympic tourist, not so much. Crowds circled a construction site next to the cauldron Tuesday, as they have every day of the 2010 Games, trying to get a souvenir picture through the chain-link fence that kept them from the broad empty plaza.

Tracey Groot and her son Randall came down from Smithers to see Team Canada play in the Olympic hockey tournament. After a visit to the flaming glass-and-aluminum sculpture at the foot of Thurlow Street, they retreated back up the hill to get a picture at a distance.

“There’s lots of people around so it’s tough to get a good picture, and there’s a big chain-link fence, so even if you get a good picture it’s tough,” Randall said. “It’s still cool to be down there.”

Tracey was disappointed: “I just thought we would go right up and actually touch it.”

Other Olympic visitors say it’s kids who insist on seeing the real thing after watching hockey legend Wayne Gretzky light it at the opening ceremonies. A daycare group came down Tuesday morning, but youngsters couldn’t see much.

“We can see it better from our playground,” the caregiver assured her young charges as she pushed a stroller away.

Premier Gordon Campbell said Tuesday he has discussed the issue with Olympic organizers and they are working around the clock to find a solution.

“It’s been incredibly popular, and that’s a great thing,” Campbell said in an interview. “Now we want to solve the problem and I think VANOC will do that.”

Asked if a viewing platform could be put in place, Campbell said that is one possibility.

“People would like to have a clear shot of the cauldron without the fence in between, I certainly get that,” he said. “It’s just the magic of the games that connected to that cauldron.”

He noted the irony that Vancouver’s Olympic flame is closer to the people than most previous games, where the cauldron has typically been high in the air.

For tourists pressed against the fence, it is so near but so far.

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