Updated January 11th, 2022
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 area is well worth seeing for visitors and for residents.
The Olympic Cauldron
The cauldron was created for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It’s located in Jack Poole Plaza next to the western building of the Vancouver Convention Centre. (As the name of the building implies, there’s also an eastern section of the convention centre, which can be accessed from the nearby pier.) Jack Poole was a local businessman 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 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 of the flames can be felt by visitors viewing the cauldron, which is quite pleasant on a cool day.
Living Roof of the Vancouver Convention Centre
Readers may notice what looks like grass on the roof of the convention centre in my photo above. The centre has a living roof made of plants. It occupies an area of six acres and is the largest green roof in Canada. According to the Vancouver Convention Centre website, the roof contains “more than 400,000 indigenous plants and grasses from 25 different plant species of the Pacific Northwest.” The plants are watered by so-called “black water” from the facility’s washrooms. The roof has four beehives in addition to plants. The centre says that the living roof acts as an insulator. It reduces heat gain in summer and heat loss in winter.
The Five Sails
The ninety-foot high sails are located on a pier at Canada Place. “Canada Place” is the name used for the pier and the large building on the eastern side of the pier and joined to it. It’s located not far from the cauldron. It’s quick and easy for people with normal mobility to walk between the two areas.
Canada Place is a major construction that contains many facilities and attractions for local people, tourists, and business people. The pier has 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 in many photos promoting Vancouver. From the upper level of the promenade, it’s possible to get close to the sails, 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.
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. The area is easy to reach from the downtown area of Vancouver. The Waterfront Station is part of the public transport system. It’s located by the water and near the attractions described in this article.
A walking path along the waterfront can be accessed at Canada Place. It enables walkers and cyclists to see some interesting sights in Burrard Inlet and on land. It also takes them to Stanley Park, a major tourist attraction in its own right. Ambitious travellers can explore beyond the park on the path. In many places (though not everywhere), it’s also possible to cut through the city or through Stanley Park to join the path at the desired point.
A camera is a very useful device to accompany a walk or a bike ride in the area. An explorer will find many photo opportunities, even if they have travelled the route before. The waterfront is an especially interesting section of the route. The cauldron, the sails, and other attractions in the area are worth visiting and can create some interesting photographs.