See fenced-off Olympic cauldron but keep your distance

Mon Feb 15, 2010 6:25am EST
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By Janet Guttsman

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - For tens of thousands pouring into downtown Vancouver on Sunday, the Olympic cauldron, most important symbol of the Winter Games, was locked behind a ring of steel.

Instead of a clear view of the four-armed metallic structure against a backdrop of snow-topped mountains -- the picture postcard image from television shots -- visitors to the Vancouver waterfront saw packed streets, disappointed crowds, and a chain-link fence.

Peering between the heads, one caught a glimpse of the cauldron, its flames glowing orange against Vancouver's first blue sky since the rain-dogged Games began.

"They should have made it in a more visual spot, or at least put it in a spot that's raised up so we don't have to fight each other," said Vancouver resident Elaine Verrier, who was visiting the site with her family.

Looking in bafflement at the scene, where teenagers scaled lamp posts to see what was happening, and parents lifted toddlers high above their heads to let them see, she added: "See what parents are forced to do with their children?"

Organizers said the ugly fence in front of the cauldron is a necessary accessory to a Games which have been marked by occasionally violent protests.

"We do want to make sure the flame is secure," Games spokeswoman Renee Smith-Valade told reporters. "It is obviously a safety issue for people getting too close to it as well as for their own protection."

Smith-Valade said officials were looking at the possibility of replacing the fence, which has a big "No Trespassing" sign on it that further blocks the view of the cauldron, with something less unsightly. She gave no details.   Continued...

<p>People take pictures of the Olympic cauldron from behind a fence keeping the public out of the plaza it is situated in at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, February 14, 2010. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn</p>