Technology Behind The Opening Ceremony Of Olympic Events
Every two years, the Olympic Games (summer and winter) provide a chance for the host country to put on a show that will wow the world and demonstrate the awe-inspiring feats that their nation is capable of producing. Here’s a look at some of the incredible technological and engineering accomplishments that have made past opening ceremonies so spectacular.
This year, London put on a spectacular show, and it took loads of technological accomplishments to make it possible. This was a huge job, sound was piped through the stadium with a million watt speaker system, 70,500 specially designed LED tablets created a unique video experience that incorporated the massive crowd, synthetic clouds dropped rain over the audience, and there were performances from such luminaries as David Bowie and Paul McCartney.
But the most impressive feats were the groundbreaking use of ultra high definition video to broadcast the games in 3D and the incredible cauldron. Weighing 16-tons and featuring 204 flame-spouting copper petals, this year’s cauldron gave the effect of being a virtual vessel consisting of many individual points of light. A truly innovative and unprecedented masterpiece.
Vancouver astounded the world with enormous LED lit bears rising from the ground, false snow, and tens of thousands of electric candles dispersed throughout the audience. The night’s pinnacle, however, was the effect of shifting ice flows and whales swimming beneath the stage, which was produced by over 100 long-distance projectors and bursts from carefully coordinated spouts in the stadium floor.
Performances from Nelly Furtado, Bryan Adams, and Sarah McLachlan were also great, and the acrobatic skiers dangling from the roof were a stunning touch as well.
China amazed the world with ceremonies that featured a ‘space-walking’ torchbearer who ran the entire circuit of the stadium roof at a horizontal incline across a massive 72 foot tall LED screen to light the torch. They also pulled off a precisely coordinated digital-ignition fireworks display with launch sites in 30 different locations throughout Beijing. But perhaps most mind-boggling of all was their use of ‘cloud seeding,’ which artificially precipitated rainfall in other parts of the city so that the roofless stadium would remain dry throughout the event.
Italy holds the distinction of having put on the world’s first ‘green’ major sporting event. They set an eco-friendly precedent with their conscientious use of natural light, energy efficient bulbs, solar panels, and sustainable landscaping. And with appearances from Sophia Loren, a rubber burning red Ferrari racecar, and latex clad rollerbladers wearing fire-spouting helmets, there was no shortage of visual delight in Torino.
As is fitting for the nation where the Olympics were born, Athens held an aesthetically stunning and brilliantly choreographed ceremony. In a program that stressed man’s dominion over technology (by the symbol of an Olympic cauldron that bowed to the torch bearer), they set some technological firsts with the debut of HD broadcasting and the only opening ceremony DJ performance to date (DJ Tiesto). The event also featured a giant man-made sea that covered the stadium floor and had burning Olympic rings at its center.
The engineering and technological masterpiece of these USA-hosted games was a 36-meter tall icicle cauldron constructed with 738 panes of glass. Water trickling down its sides gave the effect of melting ice, while also keeping the steel frame from actually melting under the almost 500 degree Celsius flame.
None but the most vigilant audience members could possibly have noticed some of the minor behind-the-scenes technological quirks of these games, which were hailed by many as the best the world had ever seen. To insure the utmost quality for worldwide viewers, the Sydney Symphony actually mimed their performance on the big day. And when the stunningly futuristic, hollow-centered Olympic cauldron was lit underwater and rose from the pool around the torchbearer’s feet to glide up to the stadium’s peak, a technical glitch caused a slight delay until programmers were able to override the system manually.
Los Angeles 1984
Appropriate to that iconic year in which it was held, the Los Angeles Opening Ceremony featured what has to be one of the most impressive technological displays in Olympic history. The torchbearer entered the stadium in true sci-fi fashion propelled by an actual jetpack! No one had ever seen such a thing before, and very few have seen anything like it since.
The opening ceremonies never fail to draw the whole world’s attention. So host nations take great pains to impress the international community and make their citizens proud. Each time, we get the privilege of watching a uniquely beautiful event and of bearing witness to the astounding creative abilities and cultural imaginations of people throughout the world. Now that London 2012 is over, I can hardly contain my excitement to see what is in store for us in 2014.
Thank you to the tech team at Telegraph Jobs for pulling together to put this article together! Many members on the team have attended these impressive events and glad they could share their knowledge with you!
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