Monday, August 18, 2008

A rare treat for the naked eye

Tears blurred his eyesight. But he was sure about his subject. He clicked. And the image was registered for posterity.

Wang Wenbo had waited years for this moment: the first shot of the Olympic flame lighting up the sky above the Bird's Nest. He perched himself strategically on top of a 25-story building near the Bird's Nest hours before the moment on Aug 8. The labor pain was over, the "child was finally born", hence the tears, Wang said.

"I'm proud of my contribution to the Olympics", said the 61-year-old ace photographer, who was the photo editor of the bidding reports for both the 2000 and 2008 Games, which Beijing ultimately won.

Wang has witnessed the entire birth process of the Beijing Games.

The work started in 1992 for the 2000 Games bid. He spent months finding and selecting the best photographs to back Beijing's claim.

"Although Beijing's first attempt to host the Games failed, it didn't give up trying," said Wang, also a veteran Beijing Tourism Bureau photographer.

In 2000, when Beijing committee officials began preparing to bid for the 2008 Games, they realized how important photographs were to win over International Olympic Committee members.

But the photographs available to them were not good enough. So in November 2000, they asked Wang to be the photo editor of the bidding report once again.

With only 40 days left for the final presentation, "it was the biggest challenge of my life", he said. But his keen eye for detail and fantastic memory took him to the best pictures- taken by dozens of photographers.

He got thousands of photographs from them. Then he began the process of selection. More than 100 were chosen to add color and weight to Beijing's 600-page bidding report.

The report had 18 themes, including the city's history, culture, modern life, attitude toward the Olympics and environment, and technological development.

A native Beijinger who has focused his lens on the city's life and changes for decades, Wang contributed about 30 of his own photographs to the report.

They included the two-page, leading photograph featuring a sea of jubilant people in front of Beijing's modern and ancient buildings on the eve of the new millennium.

"I wanted to show the world the marvel of the city It's full of surprises and a perfect blend of the old and the new," he said. Wang achieved that goal. Several IOC officials said the Beijing bidding report was not just a printed document, but a real work of art.

Wang retired in 2005 but has continued taking photographs. Several of his photo albums, including the Memory of Hutongs and Nostalgia for Courtyard-House, are on sale in the Olympic Village.

Source: China Daily

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