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Outdoor Olympic Ceremonies Afterall?


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from vancouversun.com

Indoor Olympic flame poses problem for organizers

Miro Cernetig

Vancouver Sun

Monday, January 28, 2008

Lausanne, we may have a problem.

We all know the global epicentre for the Winter Olympics in 2010 is going to be BC Place, our mushroom in bondage.

All the medal ceremonies and flag raisings will unfold inside our domed stadium. The world's TV cameras will be beaming images of those gold, silver and bronze medals glinting under the Olympic flame, safely out of the winter rains.

But here's the dilemma the International Olympic Committee brain trust, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, is now facing. Exactly how do you fire up the Olympics' perpetual flame -- the main cauldron cannot be extinguished for 17 days -- inside a covered stadium?

If Mr. Wizard was giving you an analogous science experiment to try at home, he might say it's a bit like sparking up a very big candle inside your family's tent. It wouldn't seem much at first, but if you do it for 17 days non-stop, better bring lots of antiperspirant -- and a gas mask. It's going to get hot and smelly in there.

This gives rise to a dilemma for the IOC -- which likes to have its iconic flame near the globally televised medal ceremonies -- and the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee.

The committee aims to have the most memorable flame-lighting ceremony of any previous Winter Games.

Never before has anyone tried to put the torch inside an enclosed building for the duration of the Games. It's an Olympic first. But it's also going to be an Olympian exercise in air conditioning.

To give Olympic organizers a helping hand, I called one of the top experts in the field, to see if it can be done. His name is Sam Shelton, a mechanical engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who helped design the cauldron in Atlanta, the one that was lit by Muhammad Ali.

"You want to put the flame inside? That's a first," he said, when reached at his office. Then he laughed. Then he said, "You'd have a fair bit of heat and you'd have to deal with the air quality. But I guess it can be done. But it will be expensive."

Then he laughed again.

What would probably be needed, it turns out, would be a mega-ventilation system, one that might be especially designed to sit just below the Olympic flame, to suck out the heat and any contaminants the flame might cause. It wouldn't be unlike one of the negative pressure fans on those fancy new stoves that suck the air downward and out of the house.

Of course, that gives rise to another problem in a covered stadium, where the roof is held up by pumping in massive amounts of air. Any sudden change of pressure and the roof could go saggy, or even collapse. Not something you want when the world is watching.

Still, with the proper engineering -- and enough money -- the quandary can be solved.

But there's another notion being floated, too, it turns out, that would be much more expensive. Why not put a retractable roof on BC Place, maybe in time for 2010?

This idea is now being blue-skied at high levels of the provincial government. It's being kept top secret for obvious reasons: After the retractable-roof debacle at the Montreal Olympics, and the cost overruns at Toronto's Skydome, stadium roofs are a tricky business to sell to Canadian taxpayers

But a retractable roof at BC Place is being considered as part of the plan to revamp the stadium and keep it around for at least another 30 years. The taxpayer wouldn't likely be on the hook, either, since a development plan for BC Place unveiled last week would give developers a chance to build highrise towers around the stadium in exchange for revamping the inside of BC Place and replacing its aging roof.

A retractable roof is an idea that sits well with Olympic officials, now worried about the torch. It would solve all the engineering problems associated with putting the Olympic flame inside for the duration of the Games. An open roof could also make for a better show, opening up more possibilities for pyrotechnics and fireworks exploding out of BC Place. As well, it guarantees the stadium would be cool enough during the Games so that the world wouldn't see Vancouverites watching the Olympics opening ceremonies in their T-shirts, as if they were holding a Summer Olympics.

A retractable roof for BC Place would be a pretty good legacy for Vancouverites, too.

Permanently enclosed stadiums are pretty well passe, a failed experiment from another age. Transforming BC Place into a modern, retractable-roof stadium would add utility and value to this public asset -- and avoid the tens of millions of dollars it would cost to tear it down. Opening up the stadium to the possibility of sunshine also means a chance at hosting a baseball franchise and perhaps even offering a new home for professional soccer.

But there's another problem here: Time.

The clock is ticking down fast on the arrival of the Games, which begin here Feb. 12, 2010.

Can a retractable roof be built on such a tight timeline?

Or is this a good idea that came too late and will need to be delayed until after the Olympic cauldron is extinguished and moves on?

Nothing, after all, would be worse for Vancouver, and Canada, than demonstrating to the world we're a nation that can't finish a roof on time.

mcernetig@png.canwest.com

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What Are They Waiting For, Start Construction Now! 24/7!

This is amazing, i'd never thought they would be doing this....but i know that i shouldn't keep my hopes up. I guess this is what they meant by "starting construction in February 2008 without all the designs finished", according to the previously leaked info i posted in the other topic. I assume they meant the roof? Things like concourse, seating, and luxury box renovations can go ahead first without the roof plan done.

But can they do this in 2 years, 2 weeks, and 4 days? The clock is ticking....this is turning into Athens 2004.

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To be honest, the roof blowout was always kinda suspect to me. You don't start planning or thinking about this kind of thing 2 years before the event and you don't build and design at the same time. I'm guessing that a lot of the planning was done ahead of time, but behind a veil of secrecy and then presented as a matter of urgency so that it could get done without huge uproar.

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^ are you suggesting the roof deflation was done on purpose? where's that eyesearsshutup guy??? :lol:

seriously, i hope you're right about all the advanced planning stuff. But i've gotta wonder, what would they possibly have in mind for retractable roof technology? It can't be terribly expensive, as even the land sales wouldn't be able to pay for that. And it can't be too complex, so that it can be built in time. Not to mention it can't be too heavy either, since the stadium walls weren't designed for such a heavy roof - major work will have to be done there first before they start building any retractable roof.

And what about all the events booked between now and the opening ceremony? Construction would require cancellation of events, and what about the BC Lions season?

If there's a will, there's a way - Campbell and his Liberal cabinet need to act fast and efficiently to get this construction going very soon.

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David Atkins must be wtf-ing his head off right now. He said he was looking forward to doing the Vancouver 2010 ceremonies because of the indoor venue (no weather, roof-less constraints).

Realistically, I'm sure he was just making the best out of the situation. He's probably overjoyed by this, and btw, he moved to Vancouver a few months ago to work on the 2010 Olympic project.

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There is enough time to build a retractable roof. They would need about 1 year to be safe. So Jan 2009 - Jan 2010 would be fine. Off-site construction would be best and simply installing the roof at the site. A fabric roof would be an option to save costs and there are various great options. The only way the roof could become an issue is if they "overthink" the process and don't make a decision by June.

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I thought the plan for the opening ceremonies included Ross Rebagliati hotboxing the stadium. I guess that segment will have to be removed from the ceremonies if a retractable roof is going in. :P

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There is enough time to build a retractable roof. They would need about 1 year to be safe. So Jan 2009 - Jan 2010 would be fine. Off-site construction would be best and simply installing the roof at the site. A fabric roof would be an option to save costs and there are various great options. The only way the roof could become an issue is if they "overthink" the process and don't make a decision by June.

you're the expert on stadiums, hopefully you're right....but it's not just putting the roof together. What about reinforcing the stadium so that it can support the weight of the roof?

Off-site construction? Like empty space right next to the stadium??? There's a medium-sized parking lot (about the size of 20 tennis courts?) on the west side of BC Place, could that be a staging area? And the Plaza of Nations, which is right to the stadium, was demolished late last year (perhaps even for this?)....another possible staging area? Other than those two sites, the stadium is surrounded by condo towers.

I'm not so sure about your one-year construction schedule, finishing a month before the Games. That's extremely tight...at that point, literally every day and hour of construction counts. My worry is delays.

A fabric retractable roof? You mean like Cardinals Stadium, which is about the host the Superbowl in like a week?

cardinal_stadium.jpg

"The only way the roof could become an issue is if they "overthink" the process and don't make a decision by June."

Unfortunately, Canadians - especially here in the West Coast - are quite known for that.

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^ are you suggesting the roof deflation was done on purpose? where's that eyesearsshutup guy??? :lol:

It just seems strange that the stadium roof that stood for 20+ years suddenly collapsed. They may have been testing things for 2010. Perhaps a test for the Olympic flame deflated the stadium? The official story could have been manufactured so that focus wouldn't turn on them.

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It just seems strange that the stadium roof that stood for 20+ years suddenly collapsed. They may have been testing things for 2010. Perhaps a test for the Olympic flame deflated the stadium? The official story could have been manufactured so that focus wouldn't turn on them.

lol, i don't know about that....it would be cool if they were really doing that.

but you have to consider the roof took 25 years worth of wind, rain and snow....weathering, decaying the fabric. and at the time of the deflation, the roof's manufacturer's guarantee had expired a few months ago. not to mention that they said an avalanche of snow cascaded from the top, to the side of the roof blowing out the rim that holds the roof to the stadium....all because managers weren't around and staff were not trained to turn on the heat to melt the snow....and turning on the heat costs $250,000, as it's from the steam plant across the street.

i'm not sure how they could have exactly tested the flame at that time, not to mention during a snowfall isn't exactly the best time.

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It just seems strange that the stadium roof that stood for 20+ years suddenly collapsed. They may have been testing things for 2010. Perhaps a test for the Olympic flame deflated the stadium?

The whole fabric would've burned and/or the Vancouver Fire Marshall would've gotten whiff of it -- and raised holy hell w/ VANOC. There's no way Vancouver will spend for a retractable roof (which is going to be EXCEEDINGLY expensive when the bowl is already in place) just to accommodate a flame. Also, look at previous film clips, they already had flames at some of those rock concerts. So how new could this issue be?

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The whole fabric would've burned and/or the Vancouver Fire Marshall would've gotten whiff of it -- and raised holy hell w/ VANOC. There's no way Vancouver will spend for a retractable roof (which is going to be EXCEEDINGLY expensive when the bowl is already in place) just to accommodate a flame. Also, look at previous film clips, they already had flames at some of those rock concerts. So how new could this issue be?

I think it is an issue because the flame is burning for 17 days.

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I've decided to hold my nose on this issue. It would seem utterly insane to spend millions and millions of dollars under a frantic construction schedule just to accomodate something like the Olympic flame, which is merely symbolic.

The article is mostly speculative...let's wait this one out and see what the official word is.

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The whole fabric would've burned and/or the Vancouver Fire Marshall would've gotten whiff of it -- and raised holy hell w/ VANOC. There's no way Vancouver will spend for a retractable roof (which is going to be EXCEEDINGLY expensive when the bowl is already in place) just to accommodate a flame. Also, look at previous film clips, they already had flames at some of those rock concerts. So how new could this issue be?

Well, it's a lot more complex than fireballs going off at concerts for 3 or 5 secs at a time...you're talking about 17-days straight, in a stadium that requires a high air pressure inside so that the roof stays inflate. The only way you can put a flame inside is also put in an expensive ventilation system beneath the flame that would suck out contaminants and heat from it....problem is you're also sucking in air that the stadium needs to keep its roof stable. You don't want the Olympic Stadium's roof going down in front of the world to see.

With regards to how we would pay for these improvements, don't forget that this won't be taxpayers money. There is land on the stadium site that will be unused and sold to developers for condos and office towers.....and this land is worth hundreds of millions. They could basically go on a spending spree on the stadium, on whatever they have from land sales.

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This is good news. What they could do so they don't have to shut down the stadium for a year while they build a new roof is build it as a separate structure over top of the existing roof and when it's finished remove the inflatable one. Perhaps that would make it too high I don't know, just a thought.

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This are both good and bad news. It was still too hard to imagine an opening ceremonies on an indoor venue (specially for the olympic flame). But also, to build a retractable roof in just two years seems to be truly hard, specially with the canadians bad fame on the roof issue (remember the Big Owe?).

But what happened to the other football stadium which was being built for the local football team (i don't remember clearly the name of it now)? It could be an option still for the organizers in case of emergency?

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