Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Popes, Doves and Cauldrons

Reading a story yesterday about the Pope and a pigeon, or more correctly, a dove, brought to mind another memorable instance where the symbol of peace instead became a victim . . . 

The Pope and the Dove: 

Pope Benedict VXI last Sunday released a dove from a Vatican balcony window as part of a Caravan of Peace celebration. The month of January in the Vatican is dedicated to a “Caravan of Peace” which culminates in a march by young people to St Peter’s Square on the last Sunday in January. Traditionally prayers are said and the Holy Father releases two doves as symbols of peace. 

So it was last Sunday: 

Pope Benedict XVI holds the dove of peace up to the sunlight 

The dove is released 

The dove takes flight in what was meant to be a symbolic moment 

All good so far. Then a seagull that apparently resides nearby took exception at the intruder, chasing and harrying the terrified dove as it tried to escape among the ancient pillars and porticos. 

The  seagull swoops upon the unsuspecting dove

The crowd watched as the dove flapped and ducked the seagull's attacks looking for a hiding place among the coves and inlets of the Vatican facades

A happy ending, though, the dove got away. 

Not so lucky were the doves in the following items. 


Olympic Doves: 

The 1900 Paris Olympics was a weird collection of events, sort of like an Olympic Games on acid. This Olympics saw sports that were unique to this occasion: poodle clipping (ie who could clip the most poodles in 2 hours?); firefighting; delivery van driving and obstacle swimming races. Also the one and only time that live animals were killed in an Olympic event was at the Paris 1900 Olympics. The event was live pigeon shooting where the aim was to shoot more pigeons than other competitors, clay pigeon shooting without the clay. A Belgian won with 21 kills. There was also a competition to shoot running deer but using moving cut-outs, not real deer. Apparently one of the reasons that the pigeon event was not repeated in later Olympics was the mess it made, with dead pigeons, feathers and blood everywhere. 

Australia’s Donald MacIntosh at the 1900 Paris games.  MacIntosh won bronze in the live pigeon shooting event.

Which is all by way of introduction to another item about doves at the Olympics.  Fast forward to the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea, where the doves were again symbols of peace in an Olympics context rather than targets. 

As we all know, Olympic Games and Olympic opening ceremonies have become bigger and bigger, so much so that the Olympic motto should perhaps become Higher Faster Stronger Costlier. The spectacle of the opening ceremony always includes the lighting of the Olympic cauldron which is usually located high up on the stadium wall. Korea was no exception. 

For Korea the Olympics was a coming of age display, a showcase of its technological advancement and sophistication.  

South Korea's President Roh Tae Woo officially opened the Games, the Olympic flag was raised and the Olympic hymn was played. The customary release of doves was uneventful. 

Release of the doves 

The crowd's excitement grew as former Korean Olympians ran into the stadium to finish the torch relay. Four of the runners, holding torches, were to light the cauldron and they held their torches aloft as the platform on which they were standing began an ascent and raised them to the cauldron. What was obvious to the billions of people watching, as it must have been to organisers, was that the doves which had been released had settled on the stadium high point, the cauldron. 


Did the organisers take action to remove the doves? Make a noise or do something to chase away the doves?  Defer the actual lighting and have  everyone think they were good guys? Nope, the ceremony proceeded and the cauldron was lit. The billions watching saw a number of doves take off and the rest killed, either whilst perched or in the air: 

(at about the 4.30 mark) 




It was the last time that doves were released as part of an Olympic opening ceremony. 

Call me paranoid but has anyone noticed the similarity between the above Olympic cauldron and:




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