With Olympic cauldron lit, torchmaker’s job was done

August 9th, 2008 - 7:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 9 (IANS) Huang Qijun was a relaxed man Saturday even though the Olympic Games have just begun. His job actually got over at midnight when Li Ning lit the giant flame on the roof of the Bird’s Nest stadium in electrifying fashion. Huang’s company, the Zhonshan Vatti Gas Appliance Stock Co. Ltd, manufactured the Xiangyun - which literally means lucky clouds - torch as well as the stadium’s main cauldron, the safety lantern and the community cauldrons, and accompanied the relay from Olympia in Greece to Beijing - so that nothing went wrong.

He travelled to each one of the 21 cities during the 33-day relay, and his only job was to ensure that the flame kept burning - and the torch remained lit “99.5 percent of the time”, more than in any previous Olympic relay, Huang said in an interview in the China Daily.

“My job is done,” Huang, 45, told the paper. “As soon as the giant cauldron was lit, I instantly felt relaxed. I was exhausted, but also excited.”

Huang said while the torch changed hands from one athlete to the other during its run, he was the only permanent torch-bearer. “Almost all the torches used outside the mainland went through my hands one by one,” he proudly said.

He was however very worried Friday night till the last moment as the torch was not being lit in conventional fashion. He said he remained on tenterhooks as Li Ning, the last runner, was lifted by almost an invisible hand to the top of the stadium.

“I was shocked,” Huang admitted. “The way the cauldron was lit was extremely risky. I don’t think (the designers) ever considered the possibility that the torch’s flame might go out.

“Imagine the wind up there, dozens of metres up in the air. There was no contingency plan - just one man hanging there!”

He said he injected seven more grams of fuel into the last torchbearer’s torch, and adjusted the flame to 40 cm, slightly higher than normal.

“The loop around the Bird’s Nest took four minutes and 50 seconds, and the Xiangyun normally burns for 15 minutes,” he said.

How did he get to be associated with the Olympics? Five years ago Huang contacted the Beijing Olympic Games Organising Committee and expressed his interest in manufacturing the torch.

“For a gas appliance maker like us, torch manufacturing is a great way to participate in sports,” he said.

And he even got to participate as a torch-bearer in his native Guangzhou when the torch passed through the city three months ago.

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