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Cauldron remains tucked away where few can see it

By Gerard Gallagher, Olympics Writer

London, England (Sports Network) - They snuck the cauldron into the stadium in the dead of night, around 3 a.m., when all the volunteers and dancers had gone home and helicopters were no longer allowed to hover overhead. They squirreled it inside so the secret could be kept, so no one could see it.

So many still can't.

The Olympic cauldron was finally moved Monday, but not to where many people think it should be.

Organizers relocated the petaled centerpiece of Friday's rollicking opening ceremony to another spot inside the Olympic Stadium, moving it out of the way to accommodate the track and field events.

The new position roughly mimics where the cauldron sat inside the old Wembley Stadium in 1948, the last time London hosted the Olympics.

The problem? Unless they buy a ticket for track and field, or were one of the thousands of spectators who saw it lit in person Friday night, members of the public can't see the cauldron from inside the sprawling Olympic park.

Rishi Karir, 34, couldn't see it as he took a picture of his wife standing in front of the stadium Monday afternoon. The park around the couple teemed with people on the first real weekday of the London Games.

"It would have been nice because it was such an impressive thing to see on the television," said Karir's wife, Joanna, 32. "We're not going to the stadium, so hence we won't get to see it."

"At the same time," added her husband, "I still like what they've done with it."

The couple, from Kent, was in the park to see young medal hopeful Thomas Daley and his partner, Peter Waterfield, dive for Great Britain in the synchronized 10-meter platform. It was their first Olympics.

Brad Cooper was also experiencing an Olympics for the first time. In the park to watch swimming heats at the Aquatics Centre, the 32-year-old, who lives 10 minutes away, was holding a beer in one hand and using the other to snap a picture of the stadium with his phone.

Cooper also would have liked to see the cauldron, though he admitted not knowing much about the controversy surrounding its placement.

Maybe the whole thing is much ado about nothing. But there's no denying the strange feeling of walking through an Olympic park with the games underway and no flame to set eyes on.

So much else is per usual -- the vendors selling concessions; the cavernous Olympic stores offering official gear; the look of confused spectators trying to figure out where to go.

All the hallmarks of an Olympic park are here, except the one.

And this is no ordinary cauldron. As far as these things go, it's one of the good ones. They're not always so memorable. The Athens cauldron in 2004 looked like a prop from a Cheech & Chong movie and Vancouver's version didn't work the way it was supposed to.

In fact, the man who designed the London cauldron was told not to give it any moving parts, fearing, perhaps, a similar embarrassment to Vancouver's, when one of the arms of its cauldron failed to come out of the floor at the end of the 2010 opening ceremony.

So what did Thomas Heatherwick give them? How about 204 stainless steel pipes topped by copper petals, each inscribed with the name of a country competing here.

The flame was lit by seven young athletes, and every country will get to take its petal home when the games are over. Indeed, not much is conventional about this year's cauldron.

Heatherwick said the idea was to have something temporary with a design rooted in the notion that Olympic cauldrons don't always have to be bigger and higher than the last.

Still, London's Olympic Stadium sat like a birthday cake without a candle.

Heatherwick defended the cauldron's placement out of view to the public.

"Fifteen million people in Britain have seen that flame already. That antique has traveled the world, " Heatherwick said, referring to the torch relay. "So we felt it has been very exposed within this country and it was like it was coming home.

"It is almost that the stadium represents some kind of temple, and it is the flame that sits in the heart of that temple."

Rishi Karir was reluctant to be too down about the hidden flame. After all, there was still so much to see inside the bustling park in East London, where the sun was out and a light breeze whipped at flags of countries from all over the planet.

"I'm loving this," he said, taking a look around to see everything.

Well, almost everything.

07/30 12:08:31 ET

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