Who will light the cauldron at the Beijing Olympics?

We have had a sneak preview of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, but one question, still remains, who will light the Olympic cauldron?

The cauldron has not always been lit at the stadium, at the Winter Games in 1952 and 1960, the flame was lit in the hearth of the home of a Norwegian skiing pioneer, Sondre Norheim, in Morgedal.

Muhammad Ali at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and Australian Aboriginal runner Cathy Freeman at the 2000 Sydney Olympics have been two of the most memorable for me.

The person who lights the cauldron, does not necessarily have to be an athlete. At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Japanese runner Yoshinori Sakai who was born in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the day the nuclear bomb was dropped on the city, was chosen to light the cauldron. The choice was meant to symbolize the rebirth of Japan after the Second World War.

To show sympathy for the victims of the Sichuan earthquake, a survivor from the quake could be chosen. At the 1976 Games in Montreal, two teenagers lit the cauldron, one from the French-speaking part of Canada and one from the English-speaking part, to symbolize the unity of Canada. A similar gesture at the Beijing Olympics, would be fantastic, but pretty unlikely given China’s insistence that politics are not to be mixed in the games.

Looking through past torch bearers (see list below), athletic competitors are often chosen. Liu Xiang is China’s most well known track athlete winning gold medal in the 110 meter hurdles in Athens. I think he has a good chance, but he is under a great deal of pressure to perform in Beijing and he has said in the past he is too busy. A report in Beijing Youth Daily quoted his father Liu Xuegen as saying that “He (Liu Xiang) has such a weighty responsibility on the track, he will not be the one to light the flame.”

I thought NBA star Yao Ming would have a good chance as he is probably the most recognizable athlete in China and throughout the world (at least in the United States), but he ran with the torch today (August 6th) and under Olympic regulations, each torch bearer can touch the torch only once during the relay.

This article suggests that Yao Ming will hold a child who survived the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan province, to light the cauldron. I think that would be incredibly touching and symbolic. They can use China’s most famous sports star, while paying homage to the victims of the earthquake.

Who do you think will light the cauldron?

Past athletes who lit the cauldron:

Berlin 1936 - Fritz Schilgen - Athletics
London 1948 - John Mark - Athletics
Helsinki 1952 - Hannes Kolehmainen - Athletics
Melbourne 1956 - Ron Clarke - Athletics
Rome 1960 - Giancarlo Peris - Athletics
Tokyo 1964 - Yoshinori Sakaï - Schoolchild
Mexico City 1968 - Norma Enriqueta Basilio de Sotelo - Athletics
Munich 1972 - Günter Zahn - Athletics (junior)
Montreal 1976 - Sandra Henderson and Stéphane Préfontaine - Athletics (juniors)
Moscow 1980 - Sergei Belov - Basketball
Los Angeles 1984 - Rafer Johnson - Athletics
Seoul 1988 - Chung Sun-Man, Kim Won-Tak, Sohn Mi-Chung - Athletics
Barcelona 1992 - Antonio Rebollo - Archery
Atlanta 1996 - Muhammad Ali - Boxing
Sydney 2000 - Cathy Freeman - Athletics
Athens 2004 - Nikolaos Kaklamanakis - Sailing

Posted by Mike 11 years ago

filed under: News, Torch Relay

Tags: , , ,


Hotpoter - August 8, 2008 @ 8:53 am

Born 1945, I wouldn’t call Yoshinori Sakai a schoolchild when he lit the cauldron in 1964.

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