Thursday, July 8, 2010

Olympic cauldron now relic of 2010's "Surveillance Games"

A technician installs a surveillance camera under the central burner of the Olympic cauldron in Vancouver on July 7, 2010. (Bob Mackin photo)

A surveillance camera was embedded in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic cauldron in Jack Poole Plaza on July 7. (Bob Mackin photo)

They say Jack Poole was watching over the 2010 Winter Olympics.

He's the chairman of VANOC who died after a battle with pancreatic cancer on Oct. 23, 2009 just hours after the Olympic flame was lit in Ancient Olympia, Greece. I was having lunch in Varda, Greece -- across from the Vancouver Cafe (I kid you not) -- when I got the call with the sad news.

Premier Gordon Campbell named the plaza west of the Vancouver Convention Centre Jack Poole Plaza earlier that month. VANOC erected a mysterious white box there and built the Games' outdoor cauldron, which Wayne Gretzky lit on Feb. 12, 2010.

The fences and barricades were unpopular, to say the least. The last of the chain link was dismantled in time for Canada Day when the cauldron was relit. No ceremony on the day the Harmonized Sales Tax was introduced. An anonymous person behind the scenes in a control room turned it on and off.

On July 7, anti-poverty activists from Vancouver handed off their makeshift, toilet plunger torch to a like-minded activist from England who will give it to an anti-poverty group in London, host of the 2012 Summer Games.

While their ceremony was happening, I noticed two fellas preparing to install a surveillance camera under the central burner of the sculpture. The sun was shining and the story gods were smiling on me. See my exclusive video here.

Not only has the permanent monument to Vancouver 2010 been altered, but it now has attached to it the very item that caused civil libertarians and anti-Olympic protesters to cry foul before the Games and criticize the $900 million, taxpayer-funded security apparatus. Queen's University Prof. David Lyon called Vancouver 2010 the "Surveillance Games."

So Jack Poole may still be watching over Vancouver, but now Big Brother is watching everyone who goes to admire the cauldron. Granted, it is inside a wading pool and some drunk and/or daredevil might want to climb the cauldron. But does a surveillance camera have to be embedded in the sculpture? Could spy cameras have been erected on adjacent buildings and warning signs placed strategically to achieve the same safety objective?

Now the cauldron is like a four-legged spider.

After the Olympic glow is gone, will it become the 21st century cousin to the Terry Fox Memorial outside B.C. Place Stadium? Another ugly, poorly maintained monument to a man who dreamed big and courageously battled cancer?

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