Glitch mars lighting of indoor Olympic flame

VANCOUVER Sat Feb 13, 2010 3:30am EST

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - The moment everyone had been waiting for misfired a little at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony on Friday when the equipment failed in the BC Center and part of the arms of the Olympic cauldron did not deploy.

All eyes were on ice hockey great Wayne Gretzky as he stood holding a torch and looking toward the middle of the stadium where the ground opened up but nothing came out.

Several nervous moments went by, when the music continued to play and Gretzky and the other four torchbearers' eyes shifted around as they waited for the Olympic cauldron's arms to deploy.

Eventually three of the four arms emerged from the floor, the torchbearers lit the bases and the flames shot up and ignited the cauldron.

Then the hole in the ground where the missing arm was to have appeared was covered up and the three-legged cauldron burned bright.

The man in charge of the ceremony said that his staff were investigating the cause of the malfunction.

"It's a very complex piece of equipment. As you saw, it literally had to dance its place into its final position," artistic director David Atkins told reporters.

"Unfortunately, the trap that revealed it from the floor of the stadium, which worked perfectly well at the beginning of the ceremony ... with the totems rising from the floor, had some mechanical failure."

He put on a brave face, however, lauding his team for quickly finding a solution.

"It was an example of the fact that we're all human, and the ceremony celebrated that fact in all sorts of ways, by virtue of the cauldron and the hand of God coming in to remind us that we have some sort of fallibility there," he said.

Luckily for Olympic organizers, the external and permanent cauldron for these Games on Vancouver's water front was later lit by Gretzky without a hitch.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Jones, editing by Ed Osmond)

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