Written by Staff Writer by Carley Petesch, CNN
There will be a temporary flame at Beijing Olympic venues in the run-up to the 2022 Winter Games after organisers said Friday they were struggling to find a suitable design for a permanent one.
The unusual move appears to be a result of Chinese nationalists growing increasingly angry at national design commissions.
Last year, China’s National Day parade was staged by the famous “Four Horsemen” camel trio — a nod to one of the iconic images of Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong. In 2005, the team behind the torch relay cut out images of parents wearing protective eyewear for the relay route.
Now, the flame is in Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics — but its fate beyond 2022 has thrown up fresh worries about China’s commitment to the event.
“We cannot use the four main designs from Beijing Design Week right now and because of this, a temporary flame will be created,” said Jin Jing, the director of the communications department at Beijing Olympic Games Organizing Committee.
“Eventually, we hope to have a flame that is in line with modern day culture and not have to worry about its consequences,” Jin told CNN in an interview Friday.
An Olympic beacon
The cauldron being lit at Sochi’s first full day of the Olympic Winter Games on February 7, 2014. Credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
“We are being guided by the designs which were put forward for proposal — these are the people who won the competition,” Jin added.
A makeshift new cauldron, burning inside a white box, was opened in front of an excited crowd at the National Stadium, commonly known as the Bird’s Nest. It is set to be moved and shared with the warm-up stadium, the Zenith, after 2022.
The temporary flame for the Winter Olympics was inspired by the exact replica made in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square for the 2022 Olympic Games. Credit: Getty Images
Others have accused the organizers of cosigning the flame designs submitted by local schoolchildren as a state secret, and of rejecting bids to design the Olympic cauldron because of political censorship.
At least one of the forms chosen for the replacement cauldron was also used to burn the Olympic torch at the Sochi Winter Games in 2014.
Jin dismissed those allegations, saying that the winning design was chosen on merit. “These designers were chosen based on quality,” she said.
Her statement comes after the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was quoted earlier this week as saying he’d asked the organizers to come up with more “realistic” plans for the cauldron.
Fireworks explode over the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics in February 2014.
“The cauldron must be in a place where people can walk by and see it every day, and a spot where you might forget if you were in Sochi,” Patrick Baumann told journalists.
Yet Olympic officials have failed to respond to repeated requests for clarification on where or when the new cauldron will be placed at the athletes’ village in 2022.
Winter Olympics chief seeks consolation prize
Jin said: “I don’t think that I can answer right now. I have no idea yet.”
Xiong Jing, the artistic director of Beijing Design Week — which put forward the winning model for the cauldron — told CNN that he regretted the decision and accused the organizers of not paying attention to what he called a “paradigm shift” in culture and design.
The winning design, which design magazine Interpret says depicts a single “leaf” with “people” in it, was the “most successful project” that Beijing Design Week had undertaken, said Jiao Dong, the Beijing Design Week executive director, in the same interview.
Xiong, who was not involved in the cauldron design selection, says he knows of no precedent for a cauldron without the Olympic logo or logo.
However, the cauldron’s location at the athletes’ village is unusual, and Jiao suggested that there was pressure on the organizers.
“They didn’t consider if you want a ‘single leaf,’ or if it is better to move it to a place with lot of people,” Jiao said.
“The organizer is looking for ways not to highlight their own logo too much.”
The decision to put the temporary flame at the athletes’ village prompted concerns about security and the security issue at the venues after the attack on the Saudi Arabian delegation at the Winter Youth Olympics in Argentina.