BEIJING: Why did the flame seem to be extinguished in the first three seconds when final torch bearer Li Ning was lifted up to light the main cauldron at the opening of the Beijing Olympics?
“The flame was not put out — it was just burning inside the torch and wasn’t visible to the audience,” said chief torch designer Huang Qijun, revealing the secrets of the design in Friday’s Beijing News. It was designed to allow the flame to be seen when the bearer held up the torch at a 30-degree angle.
“At the opening ceremony, it took a few seconds for Li to make the right pose. That’s why the flame seemed to have gone out,” he said. To make sure the flame would continue burning in a strong wind during the “flight” around the Bird’s Nest on August 8, the designers tried a variety of features.
“The last torch has more and bigger vent holes than the others so enough air will flow through,” said Mr. Huang. Each vent hole was 1.5 mm in diametre, compared to 1.2 mm on the standard torch, and the last torch had 600 holes compared with the standard 430. A special grip helped the bearer to hold on to the torch during his spacewalk-like flight at a height of 50 metres.
An extra aluminium insulation plate inside the torch protected his hand from the heat, reducing the temperature on the surface of the torch to about 40 degrees Celsius, but adding two to three grams in weight. “To keep the lighting plan secret, I was informed about it on July 24. We had only 10 days to develop the torch, which was tested on August 5. Then we only made three of them,” he added. According to the IOC rules, the mould that produced about 26,000 Beijing Olympics torches would be destroyed after the Games, he said. Though the flight around the stadium lasted only about three minutes, it was difficult for Mr. Li to hold up the torch all the way so the engineers fixed another wire to his arm as well as the two on his body, said Mr. Huang.
The impressive spectacle resulted in Mr. Li “flying” with his torch to send a torrent of flame spiralling upward to light the Olympic flame in a huge cauldron overlooking the stadium. — Xinhua