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Photographer's Note

The lighting of the cauldron is the most anticipated moment in the opening ceremonies of all Olympics and Asian Games. The opening of the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992 set a new standard of ‘daringness’ when the crowd held their breath as an archer shot a flaming arrow 80 metres from the floor of the stadium to light the cauldron.

How the cauldron is to be lit is now the most tightly held secret before every Olympic Games. The same was the case for the opening ceremony of the Asian Games in Doha last Friday. The flame was passed between four athletes as it was carried into the stadium and then to the son of the Emir of Doha, Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Kalifa Al-Thani, who appeared on a stage that was raised from an underground cavern in the middle of the stadium. He was mounted on a pure-bred Arab gelding. Apart from being the Emir’s son, Shiekh Mohammed is also captain of the Qatar equestrian team.

Everyone thought the Shiekh was going to ride to the bottom of the steps leading up to the cauldron and then light something like a channel of oil which would take the flame up the side of the steps (which are marked by the blue fluorescent light) to the cauldron.

But to everyone’s surprise, Sheikh Mohammed and his horse started to climb the steep steps – at a gallop – to a great cheer. Then a few steps from the top they faltered. The stadium went quiet as - just like in Barcelona 14 years before - everyone held their breath. But the Sheikh and his horse recovered and made it to the top. Another great cheer, the cauldron was lit, and the pyrotechnics began.

For these Games, the cauldron was constructed in the shape of a gold astrolabe – you can see it in the middle of the semi-circular LED screen, which as I mentioned in my last note is the largest ever constructed in the world.

In the middle of the stadium are over 6,000 athletes who had just completed the traditional athlete’s parade (I could only get just half of them in, even with a 12 mm wide angle lens). The men standing around the stadium in white thobes and maroon waistcoats are the marshals – there were 928 of them (no I didn’t count them – it was in the programme).

About halfway up the stairs leading to the cauldron you may just be able to make out some people in black jackets on two levels – that is the symphony orchestra that accompanied the singers like Jose Carreras.

A photograph can never convey the atmosphere of an event like this, but I hope this shot at least gives you an idea.

This was handheld at 1/40th, ISO400, noise removed and sharpened with NeatImage.

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Additional Photos by David Astley (banyanman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1237 W: 108 N: 2568] (7789)
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