Olympic flame causes smug warning

You don’t just turn off the Olympic flame as if it’s your kitchen light and you’re going to bed. It’s supposed to be eternal, like the Olympic spirit. Sure, sometimes through history, the wind has blown it out while someone was running with the torch or something. There have been little mix-ups.

But you look past them as accidents, impressed by the real effort to keep the flame going forever.

Well, in the middle of the night Sunday, construction workers came out, turned off the cauldron, dismantled it and moved it to a different spot in the Olympic Stadium so Usain Bolt wouldn’t run into it during the 100-meter dash.

“We have some pictures of the flame being put into the miner’s lantern,’’ said Jackie Brock-Doyle, an International Olympic Committee spokesperson, “where it spent the night.’’

That’s right, they trapped a tiny piece of the eternal flame in a miner’s lantern all night to keep it alive, as if it were one of Voldemort’s horcruxes. Then, after the cauldron was moved, they took the torch and re-lit the thing.

They couldn’t keep the cauldron in the spot where they had placed it for the opening ceremony. It would have gotten in the way of track and field events. That’s why they moved it. But this probably is something they could have thought of in advance.

The truth is, they planned on shutting off the cauldron all along.

Look, this isn’t the most important thing in the world. The Olympics didn’t stop. I don’t like to get too caught up in symbols, but this is the Olympic flame, after all. At the Olympics in particular, these symbols do mean things to people.

And, yes, Olympic organizers kept the flame going on a technicality, the same way they do it at night when the torch is making its way to the games. But this isn’t right.

The cauldron has been an issue here from the start, another example of how the London Games organizers are out of touch with regular people.

The cauldron has real meaning to people. To fans. To athletes. People at the games want to see it. It soars over the Olympics day and night the whole way, and serves as the rallying point for everything the games are about. The togetherness, the spirit.

“It was not created to be a tourist attraction,’’ said London Games chief Sebastian Coe, the former Brit Olympic star.

What a sad thing to say. Coe oversaw the organization of these games, which made sure that all the corporations and sponsors got all the tickets to events while the regular people were left out.

Fans — real fans who wanted to be part of this whole thing — were told that almost everything was sold out. Now, the corporate bigwigs aren’t bothering to show up at the early rounds.

So fans were left out there. And now, the flame was placed where people can’t see it, and Coe smugly says that it’s not a tourist attraction.

The guy is oblivious.

Ideally, you want as many people to see it from as many places as possible. It’s a rallying point. But people saw it go out Sunday night and called in, frantically. Meanwhile, even from the start, the cauldron was placed in the stadium, not high above it.

So you had to be in the stadium just to see it. It wasn’t shared with everyone.

“It is partly keeping with what we did in 1948,’’ Coe said.

Apparently, the flame was placed inside the stadium for London Olympics 64 years ago. And Coe and organizers think that’s some sort of charming thing to re-enact.

It isn’t.

Brock-Doyle, the IOC spokesperson, also pointed to 1948, and said “with the technology that we have nowadays, being able to see that on TV screens, on big screens above the stadium, people have another way to access that image, which is why we chose to do it that way.’’

By Monday morning, Austin Playford, one of the torch-bearers in 1948, took the horcrux/flame out of the miner’s lantern and re-lit the cauldron.

At the 2010 Games in Vancouver, organizers fenced off the cauldron for security, and people complained that they couldn’t see it. So organizers removed some of the things blocking it.

When people complained here, Coe said it isn’t a tourist attraction, and then they switched off the flame.

“No, it sat in a little miner’s lamp,’’ Brock-Doyle corrected. “We have a photo of it, and I am happy to share it with you.’’

At least the people can have that.