BEIJING — A rare snowstorm in Beijing on Sunday brought a distinct wintry vibe to the 2022 Winter Olympics.
But it could also have extinguished the Olympic flame at the Bird’s Nest.
Photos taken by a USA TODAY photographer early Sunday afternoon show no visible flames in the Olympic cauldron in medal plaza outside the stadium, where it was lit during the opening ceremony on February 4. The flame traditionally remains lit for the duration of the Olympic Games.
The International Olympic Committee referred questions about the flame to the Beijing 2022 organizing committee, whose spokespersons did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Olympic flame is one of the most recognizable symbols of the Games, beyond perhaps the Olympic rings. It is lit before each edition of the Olympics at a special ceremony in Olympia, Greece, using “the ancient method of the sun’s rays in the parabolic mirror”, according to an IOC document.
“The Olympic flame can only be lit in this way,” the document states.
The flame is then transported to the host city through the ballyhooed torch relay, which can take several months and involve thousands of torch bearers.
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The Beijing Games took a different approach with its relay, condensing the ceremonial process into just a few days and selecting venues in China. The cauldron itself is also non-traditional. While past Games had massive cauldrons visible from afar, the Beijing Games opted for a small torch in the center of a network of snowflakes, due to a stated desire to be more environmentally friendly. .
“I thought that maybe we could do some reform on this to express the concept of low-carbon development in the new era,” opening ceremony director Zhang Yimou said, according to the report. official Xinhua news agency.
This is not the first time that the Olympic cauldron has gone out. In a now well-known incident, the flame from the 1976 Montreal Games was extinguished by a surprise thunderstorm and an on-site plumber attempted to relight it using a lighter and scraps of newspaper. When Olympic officials learned of the incident, they quickly extinguished the plumber’s flame and re-ignited the cauldron using an emergency flame, in accordance with Olympic protocols.
Contact Tom Schad at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.