Mystery Solved: Why Rio Olympics’ cauldron is so tiny

RIO DE JANEIRO — Lightning the Olympic Cauldron is always the dramatic conclusion of the Opening Ceremony, as an honored athlete from the host nation completes the torch’s journey and sets it ablaze.

With each Olympiad, they’ve seemingly gotten more grandiose. The London one was a collection of a few dozen smaller cauldrons. The Sochi cauldron sat atop a giant replica torch in the Olympic Park.

But when Brazil’s great distance runner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima was handed the torch and lit the cauldron at the Rio Games’ Opening Ceremony on Friday night, he ignited a relatively small pot by modern Olympic standards.

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Don’t worry – they didn’t, like, run out of money for a regulation cauldron. This was by design.

According to Olympic organizers, they wanted a cauldron that didn’t generate a “large volume of fire” and wanted one with “low emissions.”

As one of the themes of the Opening Ceremony was the fight against global warming – exemplified by a lengthy segment that included NASA graphics of coastal cities being flooded – the cauldron was designed to represent “the call to reduce warming caused by fossil fuel and greenhouse gases.”

Hence, tiny cauldron.

But the Rio Games organizers weren’t simply going to have a small flaming bowl on a stick, looking as out of place as a tiny Stonehenge at a Spinal Tap concert. So they added something rather striking behind it to enhance the effect:

The Olympic Cauldron burns with the Olympic Flame during the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 5, 2016. / AFP / WILLIAM WEST (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)

Artist Anthony Howe designed a wind-powered sculpture that hangs behind the flame. It’s in constant motion and gives a dizzying, spiraling look to the cauldron.


And it’s a pretty cool optical illusion:


Howe said it represents the sun, with the spirals representing life. It’s a comment on solar energy.

So it may not be the biggest cauldron at the Rio Games, but it might have the most to say to the millions of fans who will tune in for the Summer Olympics.

Check out more photos from the Opening Ceremony:

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

Yahoo Sports’ Greg Wyshynski reports live from the streets of Rio:

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