If you know what happened when the Olympic cauldron was lit during the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul you can stop reading, because you knew about something that I didn’t and I’m proud of you. As a purveyor of sports miscellany I love to know weird tidbits, and until now I had never seen a flock of peace doves get burned to a crisp.
The pressure of an opening ceremony is second to none. This isn’t like being late for work because a flock of geese decided to cross the street during your commute. Tens-of-millions of people are watching, and the pressure to keep ceremonies moving means you can’t just pause to de-dove the Olympic cauldron. Especially after you just released the doves.
So the three people tasked with lighting the cauldron in 1988 didn’t.
A loose count shows there were 11 doves in the cauldron when torches were plunged in to start the games. On some level you can’t blame the lighters for assuming that birds would fly away from flames. But they didn’t.
I can’t tell you why they chose to lose their lives in this athletic pyre, but they did. A few of the doves flew out when the flames began to spread, but the majority just sat there and burned to a crisp.
I’ve seen this story described but never had a chance to witness it. It’s horrific, and the only thing that makes me feel better about watching these doves die is the reality that they’d be dead today anyway — even if they escaped the cauldron.
There’s probably some labored point in here somewhere about humans encroaching on the natural world and not caring about killing things that are lower on the food chain, but it’s also kind of beautiful. I’ve never seen a dove die before now. Most doves likely die without fanfare. These doves died on the world’s brightest stage.