The Olympic Cauldron and the Five Sails at Canada Place

The waterfront in downtown Vancouver has many attractions for tourists, business people, and other visitors. Two of these are the giant Olympic Cauldron and the five huge sails at Canada Place. I’m always tempted to photograph these attractions when I visit the area, even though I already have many photos of them. The weather, lighting, viewing angle, and surrounding activity make each photo different. In the case of the cauldron, the lit or unlit state and the appearance of the flames also make a difference.


The Olympic Cauldron against a backdrop of downtown Vancouver

The Olympic Cauldron

The cauldron was created for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It’s located in Jack Poole Plaza next to the Vancouver Convention Centre. Jack Poole was a local business man who led Vancouver’s successful bid for the Olympic Games. Sadly, he died of cancer not long before the games began. Burrard Inlet and the North Shore Mountains form an attractive backdrop for the cauldron. When viewing it from the opposite position, downtown Vancouver can be seen.

The cauldron is 10 metres high, 12 metres wide, and weighs approximately 33,600 kilograms. It consists of four arms crossing over each other at different angles. The arms  are made of steel, polycarbonate, and furnace glass. Parabolic mirrors are located below their outer covering, which produces a crystalline effect. The designers wanted to create a “fire on ice” appearance to match the theme of the opening ceremony of the Olympics. The arms of the cauldron are illuminated at night. Each arm is attached to a separate base. The bases are surrounded by water containing a fountain today. 



The cauldron is lit on Canada Day.

The Flame of the Cauldron

The low barrier at the base of the cauldron is a popular place for people to sit. During the Olympics, getting close to the cauldron wasn’t possible. I went downtown during the event in the hope of seeing the flame, but I and the other hopeful viewers were blocked by a fence and could only catch glimpses of the lit cauldron.

Since the 2010 Olympics, the cauldron is lit only for special events. One of these is Canada’s birthday on July 1st, which was when I took the photo above. The heat can be felt by visitors viewing the cauldron, which is quite pleasant on a cool day.


The five sails and the pier at Canada Place

The Five Sails

The ninety-foot high sails are located on a pier at Canada Place. The pier is located not far from the cauldron. It’s a major construction that contains many buildings and attractions as well as a multi-level promenade for walkers and a berth for cruise ships going to Alaska. The sails are so big that they can be seen from a wide area and are featured on many photos promoting Vancouver. On the promenade, it’s possible to get close to them, as I did when taking the photo below.

The sails are lit in multiple colours from dusk to dawn, which creates an attractive scene. The colours match the seasons and are sometimes animated. Non-profit organizations can request a colour display to match their cause.


The sails and the promenade on the pier

History of the Sails

The area around the pier at Canada Place has long been a place where boats dock. The area is known as the Port of Vancouver. The ocean and maritime vessels have been an important part of Vancouver’s history and still are today. The sails are meant to pay homage to the past. They were placed on the pier in 1986 and were originally made of Teflon-coated fabric. In 2010 and 2011, the fabric was replaced by Teflon-coated fibreglass, which is stronger and resists potentially harmful environmental conditions better.

It’s nice to know that the original sail fabric wasn’t completely discarded. Some of it was used to build a roof over an outdoor area at a school in Tanzania. The area is used as a classroom and as a sheltered meeting place for the local village.

The Vancouver Waterfront

I think the waterfront is a great place for anyone visiting Vancouver to explore. It’s a popular site for nearby residents to visit as well. A walking path along the waterfront can be accessed at Canada Place. It enables walkers and cyclists to see some interesting sights and takes them to Stanley Park, a major tourist attraction in its own right. A camera is a very useful device to accompany a walk or a bike ride in the area.


4 thoughts on “The Olympic Cauldron and the Five Sails at Canada Place

  1. Pingback: Vancouver’s Waterfront Station and the Angel of Victory Statue | BC Write

  2. Pingback: Observations During a Walk Along Vancouver’s Seaside Greenway | BC Write

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