The Olympic flame burns -- we think

July, 31, 2012
7/31/12
12:57
PM ET
LONDON -- I loved the Olympic flame-lighting during the opening ceremonies, what with the little copper kettles -- one for each nation -- combining into an impressive cauldron. It made for wonderful symbolism of the world coming together.
[+] EnlargeOlympic Cauldron
Paul Hackett/ReutersThe Olympic cauldron is keeping a low profile in London -- too low, in fact.

There is just one major problem with the flame, however.

You can’t see it.

The flame is still burning inside the main stadium, or at least I assume it is. From our apartment outside Olympic Park, we can just make out the video board on the top level of stadium interior and it shows the flame burning. But because the cauldron is set so low on the field -- it’s only about 25 feet high -- you can’t see the actual flame from anywhere.

This is a huge gaffe, and one that is almost incomprehensible considering how many years went into planning every aspect of these Olympics. The flame not only is the symbol of the Olympics, it is also the absolute favorite photo opportunity other than the athletes who compete in Speedos or bikinis.

A photo with the flame in the background is as much a part of any Olympic trip as a $42 T-shirt with the Olympic logo. It’s proof you were there.

But because of its location inside the stadium, no one can get this photo now. And no one can get the photo later, either, without a ticket to the track and field competition, which starts Friday. It’s like going to New York harbor and finding the Statue of Liberty hidden under a shroud of blue tarpaulin for renovation or traveling across the country and being told by an amusement park worker: Sorry, Wally World is closed -- Moose out front shoulda told you.

And to think, the torch relay lasted 70 days, covered 8,000 miles and involved 8,000 bearers. All so that no one could see the flame at its final stop.

It was bad enough in Vancouver when the Olympic cauldron was partially obscured by a cheap and ugly cyclone fence. But at least you could still get a photo of it. This is just inexcusable. The cauldron designer defended the flame by saying that technology allows people to watch it on video screens. I’m sorry, but seeing it on a video board is about as satisfactory a substitute as a fireplace with a video of a fire rather than actual flames that burn and crackle and give off heat.

Do not repeat this mistake, Rio.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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