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Cauldron creation detailed in book

Flame-holder for 2002 had complex genesis

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The Olympic cauldron that's burning again during the Moscow-Utah Youth Games wasn't the favorite design of the company that built the massive glass-and-steel structure.

Its pick was a twisted stack of snowflake-shaped glass panels, according to Jim Doyle, director of technical resources for WET Design, the California-based company hired to create the cauldron for the 2002 Winter Games.

But that design had problems.

"It was enormously difficult to build," Doyle said, adding about $1 million to the $2 million price tag for the project. And then there was the question of how it would look to the billions of television viewers around the world.

The edges of the glass panels just didn't show from a distance, he said, even though they looked great in the table-top model shown to the Salt Lake Organizing Committee more than a year before the final product was installed at the University of Utah.

Doyle said the alternative design ultimately built turned out to be the best choice. He was in Salt Lake City Friday to oversee the cauldron re-ignited for the youth games and to promote the company's new book, "Creating the Cauldron."

The oversize book, priced at $46, is available at the visitors center of Olympic Cauldron Park or through the WET Design web site, www. wetdesign.com. It can also be ordered from the Internet bookseller, Amazon.com, at www.amazon.com.

Doyle's role in the design? "I'm the flame guy," he said. "They also call me the 'executor.' "

Tim Hunter, who also designed the commemorative Olympic fountain at The Gateway, provided the art, Doyle, the application. That meant figuring out a way to fill the clear-paneled cauldron with flame.

"This is the hardest thing I've ever done, without question," he said, even though he's helped construct a number of projects that feature fire, including the "erupting" volcano at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

The difference with the cauldron, Doyle said, is that it can't fail. It had to light during the Opening Ceremonies of the 2002 Olympics on Feb. 8, and it had to stay lighted until it was extinguished during the Closing Ceremonies on Feb. 24.

Usually, "fire features" are built to automatically shut down if something goes wrong. Not the cauldron. That's why he's had to be on hand for its relighting on last year's anniversary of the Games and for the ceremony Friday evening.

But he's training a Salt Lake-based employee of WET Designs, Scott Turnbow, to take over. Turnbow will be in charge when the cauldron is relighted again on Feb. 8, to mark the second anniversary of the start of the 2002 Olympics.

The process is a little different since the cauldron was moved from atop Rice-Eccles Stadium after the Olympics and put on permanent display at the park constructed adjacent to 500 South.

During the Olympics, the flame was lighted by the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" U.S. men's hockey team at the base of the tower and manually hauled up the glass-and-steel to the cauldron by a hidden trio.

Now the flame is ignited directly in the cauldron, where water flows to keep the 900-degree flame from melting the steel between the panels. The 12-foot glass cauldron also makes the flame look bigger because all of it can be seen.

Utahns will be able to see the flame evenings throughout the youth games, which end Feb. 7 with closing ceremonies that will also mark the upcoming two-year anniversary of the Olympics.

On Feb. 8, it will be relighted at noon and burn through 10 p.m., said Fraser Bullock, who served as SLOC president until the organization dissolved last year. "There's nothing like commemorating the actual date," Bullock said.

E-mail: lisa@desnews.com