Fans disappointed they can't see Olympic flame


LONDON – Disappointed fans criticized London 2012 organizers on Sunday, accusing them of staging a "disappearing act" with the Olympic flame.

The cauldron was lit amid dramatic scenes at the Opening Ceremony on Friday but cannot be seen by anyone outside the Olympic stadium because of its positioning within the venue.

That means nearly half of the Games will have passed the next time the flame is on display because the track events do not get underway until Friday.

"I traveled all the way from California to watch the Olympics for the first time," said Jennifer Collins, who is from Chino Hills, Calif. "I was so excited to see the flame, but even from within the Olympic Park you just can't get a look at it. I will have gone home by the time the track starts. It is very disappointing."

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The cauldron is made up of pronged components, which rose together when lit by seven young athletes as part of the Opening Ceremony festivities. It will be stationed at one end of the stadium, but, unlike the Bird's nest in Beijing, it's not high enough to be visible from the outside.

London's Olympic budget was cut because of the economic downturn but it's not known whether that contributed to the decision on how to place the flame.

"They have done a disappearing act with it," said Londoner Colin Millard, 58. "We can't wait to see some events, and it doesn't spoil your day, but of course you would like to think it is all part of the experience. You come to the Games, you get a photo with the flame."

Others were similarly bemused at the fact that apart from TV viewers, the only people who will able to see the flame are those fortunate enough to hold tickets for the track and field competition.

"It was like, now you see it, now you don't," said Linda Samuel, of Essex, just outside London. "I loved the Ceremony, and the flame was a dramatic moment. But now it's like it's not here."

The cauldron was the brainchild of designer Thomas Heatherwick and is made up of 204 flames in copper-petal bowls, representing the participating nations. They are mounted on stems of stainless steel, which were then painted in a shade of blue known as "bad black."

The cauldron stands at 25 feet high and weighs more than 35,000 pounds. At the end of the Games, the prongs will be dismantled and each one presented to the nation it represents.

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