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Beijing Opening Ceremony: How It Was Done


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October 2008

A comprehensive break down of the production work on this summer's spectacular Olympic games in Beijing.

The first full dress rehearsal was held on July 16, 2008. Two weeks later on July 30, a second rehearsal was held with a live audience of 70,000. Another two full dress rehearsals were held on the 2nd and 5th of August, paving the way for the August 8 Opening Ceremony.

The countdown started with 2008 Fou drummers set out in a vast grid across the infield of the stadium. Based on an idea by Andree Verleger, the drummers beat the countdown from 180 seconds, each drum a manually controlled pixel that turned the floor of the stadium into a vast display screen for Arabic and Chinese numerals. At 8pm precisely, on 08/08/2008, the Opening Ceremony began with the explosion of hundreds of fireworks above the stadium, turning it into a giant peony flower.

The countdown was followed by the presentation of the Presidents of China and the IOC. Following which the Fou drummers continued their performance whilst reciting a famous ancient saying from Lunyu: “Friends have come from afar, how happy we are.”

Then came the march of the footsteps in the sky. Twenty nine pyrotechnic footprints, fired from locations along the axis from Tiananmen Square to the Bird’s Nest Stadium, signified the arrival of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing. The creative team had originally planned to film the footprints live from a helicopter, but in late 2007 they were advised that it was impossible to do this safely or reliably because of the risk of bad weather. Instead, they made a HD video animation of the effect as it might have appeared in their dream chopper shot, and ran the video in the stadium and on the international broadcast at the same time as the real pyrotechnics were fired.

The footprint sequence ended with a pyrotechnic meteor shower into the stadium. It was echoed by LED effects on the stadium floor that culminated in the appearance of the Olympic ring logo in the centre of the field. Twenty women acrobats in LED angel costumes flew towards the centre of the field, and appeared to peel the ‘Dream Rings’ rings off the floor and lift them into the air. Each ring was 10m in diameter, made up from 45,000 battery-powered white LEDs woven into a black net with a pitch of approximately 25mm. The 36m x 16.5m net was flown from a pipe along the top edge.

As the Dream Rings faded to black, a group of Chinese children in regional costumes entered at the north end of the stadium carrying the PRC flag. Lin Miaoke, age 9, stood beside the twin flagpoles at the south end of the stadium and mimed "A Hymn to My Country", they walked the flag down the centre of the field. Once there, they handed the flag over to a flag-raising party of PLA soldiers, and the flag was hoisted to the Chinese national anthem.

The first part of the artistic section, ‘Splendid Civilization’ started with a short film that played on the LED screens at the north and south ends of the stadium. The film described the, the arts of making of paper, ink and brushes, the art of calligraphy, and the process of mounting paper onto a silk scroll.

As the film ran on the screens, the lift lids opened and a Chinese scroll, rolled up in two rolls in the traditional manner, was raised up on the lift in the centre of the field. As the film ended, the 2.2m diameter LED scrolls illuminated and unrolled to reveal the 11m x 20m sheet of paper lying in the centre. 15 modern dancers in black costumes stepped onto the paper. Each performer wore a mitten soaked in black paint. During their performance – created by New York based choreographer Shen Wei – they drew the outlines of a simple Chinese landscape painting onto the paper. The painting sequence concluded with a solo dancer drawing the sun in the top right corner. A river of images of Chinese cultural artefacts from cliff-painting to bronze vessels flowed across the LED screen scroll underneath the paper whilst they danced. The music that accompanied the performance was played by a Guquin player sitting on a fan-shaped stage at the east side of the stadium. At the end of their performance, the paper was lifted into the air to display the painting to the VIPs in the stands on the west side of the stadium.

The paper was lifted into the air and tracked to the north of the stadium to clear the centre area of the stage. As it moved away, the lift went down, the lids closed, and 810 philosophers entered from the two north entrances. They carried scrolls made from bamboo slats and recited an ancient script: Lunyu, Analects of Confucius. The poem was written on the slats, the writing medium used in China before the invention of paper. A minute or so later, the lids opened and the lift rose up to present a solid rectangle of 897 moveable-print modules arranged in a 23 x 39 grid. Movable type formed from baked clay characters was developed in China in the Song Dynasty (960-1276AD). The telescoping modules representing the type were designed by Han Lixun. Each one was operated by a performer hidden inside. The performer could extend the module from a closed position 1.8m high to an extended position 4m high. Each performer was a pixel in a giant slab of movable printing blocks. The performers created 3d patterns of waves, yin-yang spirals, concentric circles and squares, pausing between each sequence to create one of the Chinese characters representing He (harmony). At the end of the sequence the performers flipped the lids of the blocks to create a sea of peach blossoms, and then flipped the lids open to reveal themselves. The performers rehearsed their sequence for ten months. Each performer memorized their personal sequence of movements, which they executed to the count of their choreographer.

The lighting shifted from the printing modules to an elaborately decorated Pekin opera stage, carried in through the north-west tunnel by 96 bearers. On top of the floating stage, a traditional Chinese orchestra played music as four puppet masters performed, surrounded by 800 ‘Terracotta Warriors’. At the same time, the lift took the printing modules back down into the pit and the lids closed to allow them to clear into the basement. Once the modules were clear, the lids opened and the empty lift deck was brought level to the field.

The lighting shifted back to the sheet of paper. It was picked up and carried by 12 rows of 14 ambassadors. On top of the paper, a Dunhuang dancer performed a silk dance. The paper, carried by the ambassadors and accompanied by the scrolls, moved southwards across LED images of the Silk Road. At the same time, the floating stage and the 800 Terracotta Warriors exited, and four groups of 232 oarsmen entered from the four tunnels.

The rolling image of the Silk Road stopped when the paper was over the lift. As the oarsmen formed into two lines on each side of the LED screen with their oars held aloft, the dancer dismounted, the sheet of paper was lifted into the air, the lift carried the 168 ambassadors down into the basement, the lids closed and the sheet of paper was landed on top of them.

To each side of the paper, the 928 oarsmen created a performance that celebrated Zheng He’s overseas voyages. On the centre of the sheet of paper, a solo dancer performed holding a Chinese compass.

The exit of the oarsmen overlapped the entry of several groups of performers who made up the celebration of the Five Dynasties. 32 music platforms were arranged in two lines, one each side of the LED screen. Throughout the scene, the LED screen showed the ‘Five Long Paintings’, scroll paintings made between the 8th and 18th centuries that reflect the prosperity of dynastic China. The platforms, each one a truncated Ming-style decorative column head and base 3.7m high with a performer sitting on top, were designed by Chen Yan. As the scene unfolded, almost 800 people took to the stage, blocked in brightly coloured costumes of pink, blue, red and gold. At the climax of the scene, the music platforms extended upwards to form classical Chinese columns over 12m high. The columns were internally illuminated so that the rampant dragon motif was first revealed in semi-darkness. The scene then brightened to reveal the full splendor of the colonnade that flanked the LED screen from north to south.

A burst of fireworks above the stadium marked the finale of ‘Splendid Civilization’, the first artistic segment. The ‘Five Dynasties’ performers and the columns exited, and as the fireworks died down the lighting revealed the pianist Lang Lang sitting at a white piano in the centre of the paper, with a five year old child, Li Muzi, standing next to him as he played. Surrounding the couple were 1000 ‘Star-men’ dressed in green costumes. As Lang Lang played, the scrolls moved apart to reveal more of the LED screen pulsing with vibrant colours. The Star-men formed a grid over the expanding screen, pulsing in waves in time to the music. Then the tempo of the music changed and the Star-men broke away from the grid, switching on LEDs in their suits as they stepped off the LED screen. They formed swirling patterns, then formed into a dove, and then came back together around the piano to form a human model of the Bird’s Nest stadium that pulsed with light. As they did so, a girl with a kite flew above them from south to north, waving as she passed.

The image of the Star-men faded, and their exit overlapped with 286 performers carrying 1m x 3m lightweight rectangular frames stretched with silk scrims. They formed three circles around the paper, and as they did so the piano was carried off, replaced by a single Tai-Chi master in the centre of the paper. Female Tai-Chi artists took up positions in front of the outer ring of the scrim frames. The DLPs projected video images from nature – water, trees, clouds and stars – onto the scrims, whilst the Tai-Chi performers moved in harmony with the images.

The scene ended with the DLPs projecting a diagram of yin, yang and the five elements rendered in Chinese and English onto the stadium floor. As the silk scrim performers exited, the sound of a thundering waterfall filled the stadium and other DLPs projected a waterfall onto the stadium rim. At the same time, 2008 Tai-Chi performers ran into the stadium, the sound of their feet adding to the roaring of the water. The Tai-Chi performers formed concentric rings around the paper. On the paper, a teacher held a class for 40 children. The children took big colouring brushes and filled in the colours of the black and white landscape drawn on the paper.

The stadium filled with the sound of birds flying overhead. The DLPs projected brightly coloured birds onto the rim of the stadium. The children moved off the paper onto the lids of the lift, waving to the birds. At the same time, the Tai-Chi performers exited and the paper, with the paper now brightly coloured, was picked up and flown to the north end of the stadium.

The 5000 LEDs in the stadium floor and the LED screen itself turned into a single huge starfield. Three astronauts in LED suits flew down from the roof to greet the children, now gathered in the centre of the field. One of the astronauts touched the floor in the centre of the field, and it began to crack open, the lids parting to reveal a brilliant shaft of light. The lift lids continued to open, carrying the children away from the hole and revealing the globe, rising up from the pit with two singers on the top and 58 acrobat performers standing with their arms outstretched on the nine rings.

The performance started with the globe internally lit in simple colours of red and gold as the acrobats ran around it to the orchestral introduction to the theme song. As the introduction reached a climax, the DLPs projected a slowly revolving picture of the Earth and the acrobatic performance changed to summersaults handstands and bold leaps around the rings. At the start of the first verse, spotlights picked up Sarah Brightman and Liu Huan standing at the north pole, and they began to sing the theme song ‘You and Me’. The DLP images changed to video of athletes, swimmers, silk dancers, vaulters and runners, all performing against a sky-blue background. 12 aerial performers flew above the globe, turning summersaults in the air. 2008 ‘Smiling Faces’ - performers carrying umbrellas that would open to reveal pictures of the faces of volunteers from all over the world, moved into position on the field surrounding the globe. As Sarah and Huan sang the final verse of the song, the acrobats on the rings slipped through the webbing and disappeared from view. On the vocal finale, the floor of the stadium was flooded with light, the Smiling Face performers opened their umbrellas, and the stadium was filled with pictures of smiling faces. At the same time, the DLPs projected images of thousands more smiling faces onto the rim of the stadium, and fireworks exploded in the air overhead.

Then the entire field became silent. The DLPs projected images of Earth onto the sphere, which stood alone in the stadium. This marked the end of the artistic performances.

The sphere began to sink back into the lift pit, and the marshalls assembled on the field to greet the athletes. Once the lids of the lift were closed, the paper was carefully placed on the centre of the lids, the horizon of the painting running parallel to the line of the parading athletes. Trays of dye were placed at the leading edge of the paper, so that the athletes would walk through the dye and leave their footprints on the paper. The parade of 205 national teams, more than 10,000 athletes, began.

Once the athletes were all assembled on the centre of the field, the paper was lifted into the air and a 2m high stage slid into place underneath. The protocol segments began with speeches on the stage from Liu Qi , President of BOCOG and Jaques Rogge, President of the IOC. These were followed by PRC President Hu Jintao declaring the opening of the 29th Olympiad, and the parade and raising of the Olympic flag. The Olympic Anthem was sung by a children’s chorus on the stage. Following the anthem, a representative of the athletes and a representative of the referees swore the oaths on behalf of the athletes and judges.

The Dove Release was staged to a song, “The Sky” specifically composed for this segment. Images of doves flying into the sky were projected onto the stadium rim, along with images of people fro around the world making an animated flying dove symbol with their crossed hands. At the same time, the stewards and marshals encouraged the audience and the athletes to participate in this symbolic dove release

The Olympic flame was paraded around the stadium. The final torchbearer was Li Ning, the Chinese gymnast Olympic gold medalist He was lifted into the air at the north end of the stadium, and ‘ran’ around the rim, flown from a winch car running on a perimeter track mounted behind the fascia. When he approached the cauldron, he lit a taper that sparked up from the rim of the stadium, burned around the rim of the structure, and ignited the flame.

08/08/08 - Post show

Following the show, the BSEDI supervised teams of contractors had six days to remove the stage equipment used for the Opening Ceremony, install the equipment for the Closing Ceremony, and prepare the field for the athletics events. They removed the entire LED screen, the sliding lids that covered the lift pit, the LED-studded decking that covered the field and track to each side of the LED screen, and the Dream Sphere and telescoping lifting mast from inside the pit. In place of the sphere they installed the 24m high ‘Tower of Memory’ (that would be used in the Closing Ceremony) in the lift pit, covered over the hole with a structural deck, grassed over the infield and installed and tested all the timing and performance measuring equipment. The operation entailed manhandling more than 2000 tons of steel in and out of the stadium in a tightly choreographed technical operation. The work was completed in time for the first athletics events to take place on the morning of 15 August.

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At 8pm precisely, on 08/08/2008, the Opening Ceremony began with the explosion of hundreds of fireworks above the stadium, turning it into a giant peony flower.

So the ceremony didn't begin at 8:08 PM? I remember many people here more or less thought that it would.

(I don't know as I didn't watch the ceremony live in real time)

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So the ceremony didn't begin at 8:08 PM? I remember many people here more or less thought that it would.

(I don't know as I didn't watch the ceremony live in real time)

Well, what do you consider the beginning? There was over an hour's pre-show of the many ehtnic groups doing their native dances. Would that be the start? If you've looked at the DVDs, there is about a 5-minute gap before anything at all happnens. I think that's when Hu Jintao and Rogge make their entrance.

- And the fireworks' footprint? I would consider that outside the "official' start of the OC.

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Well, what do you consider the beginning? There was over an hour's pre-show of the many ehtnic groups doing their native dances. Would that be the start? If you've looked at the DVDs, there is about a 5-minute gap before anything at all happnens. I think that's when Hu Jintao and Rogge make their entrance.

- And the fireworks' footprint? I would consider that outside the "official' start of the OC.

Yeah, I guess it is ambiguous.

I personally consider the appearance of the clock on the rim's roof and when the drums begin to light up as the beginning. That's a little bit after Hu Jintao, Rogge, and company took their seats (they weren't announced until after the countdown).

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Thanks, OG.

There's a lot more, especially about the creation and execution of the globe(sphere) -- BTW, have any ofyou seen trailers for "The Day the Earth Stood Still"? It's got similar globes popping up all over the place. I wonder what Mark Fisher (who conceived the sphere idea) thought of that.


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Thanks, OG.

There's a lot more, especially about the creation and execution of the globe(sphere) -- BTW, have any ofyou seen trailers for "The Day the Earth Stood Still"? It's got similar globes popping up all over the place. I wonder what Mark Fisher (who conceived the sphere idea) thought of that.


Hmm, I never saw that page.

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Might as well post it too:


November 2008 Issue 111

The opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing witnessed some of the most breathtaking scenes ever to grace a live event. In his role as chief designer, Mark Fisher was part of the creative process from the earliest stages. For this exclusive feature, he talked to Diana Scrimgeour about his relationships with his fellow Olympic creatives, the artistic and cultural challenges, and the team’s final achievements...

When BOCOG solicited proposals for the Opening Ceremony production in 2005, I was invited to join a Chinese team assembled by Lu Jiankang’s Beijing Bei-Au Grand Cultural & Sports Events Company. The deadline for proposals was the summer of 2005.

After the hand-in, things went very quiet. The Chinese judges shortlisted the hundreds of proposals down to 13, and then to three. But in the end they decided that — taken individually — none of the proposals delivered what they were looking for.

In the summer of 2006, BOCOG appointed Zhang Yimou to be the producer and artistic director of the Ceremonies, assisted by two deputy artistic directors, Zhang Jigang and Chen Weiya who, along with the artist Cai Guo-Qiang, and show directors Fan Yue and Wang Chaoge, comprised the core creative team. Chen Weiya was also appointed artistic director for the Closing Ceremony, and Zhang Jigang was appointed artistic director for the Paralympic Ceremonies.

At the same time, Yu Jianping, a senior executive at the Beijing Special Equipment Design Institute (BSEDI), became director of the technology group, responsible for all the stage machinery, stadium rigging and the cauldron installation. Lu Jiankang was made production director of the Opening Ceremony, responsible for the performers and stage management. All would have huge teams working under them.

BOCOG also appointed a slightly larger team of creative directors by cherry picking individuals from all of the teams from their shortlist of non-winning entries. Many of the ideas that had been in the entries of all these different people were retained or folded into what became the final project.

From the start of the project, Yimou had a clear vision of the sort of show he wanted to create; a poetic show that used wit and intelligence to challenge the scale of the stadium, a modern show that exploited current multi-media techniques, and a mass choreography show that achieved moments of intimacy and emotion.

As with all Opening Ceremony shows, BOCOG expected the artistic performance to showcase Chinese cultural and technological inventions and achievements. Yimou sought a single theme that could form a unifying thread through the show. He chose paper, because it not only holds an important position in the development of Chinese art, but it also became, from the time of its invention in China in 100AD up until the 20th century, the primary medium of global communication.

By autumn 2006, Yimou had worked out a show based around the creation of a huge sheet of paper in the stadium. The sheet (in the first proposal it was 26m wide by 36m long) would be used as both a painting ground and a sculptural element. It would be painted on, danced on and projected on, and it would fly like a bird, sail like a ship, and float like a magic carpet above the desert. And it would also be walked on by all the athletes, who, in a remarkable proposal, would print their steps in ink on the paper surface as they walked across it. Beneath the paper, Yimou proposed that the entire infield of the stadium floor was to be a giant LED screen.

In the winter of 2006, I traveled to Beijing, met with Chen Weiya and Zhang Yimou and accepted their invitation to work with them as ‘Chief Designer’ for the Ceremonies. From January 2007 onwards, I commuted to Beijing at least once a month, and I was present at all the creative meetings where the major design decisions were made.

The creative team had reshaped the Opening Ceremony show into two parts by May 2007. The first half, ‘Splendid Civilization’ would present 5,000 years of Chinese civilization. The second half, ‘Extraordinary Times’, would summarise the achievements of the present and look forward to the future. BOCOG had chosen the phrase — ‘One World One Dream’ — as the slogan for the Beijing Olympics and Yimou decided that an image of the Earth should be built in the stadium and presented as an aspirational symbol for the future.

Yimou developed the idea of a giant scroll on the floor of the stadium. The scroll, with rolls at each end that could be opened and closed just like a real scroll, was made from a 2cm thick polyester resin honeycomb sandwich (11m wide x 20m long, weighing 800kg) and became the main stage for the show while the surface of the scroll became a 147m x 22m LED screen across which images could flow like a river of time.

In the centre of the LED screen, in the centre of the field, Yu Jianping’s team designed a lift, 26m wide in the east-west direction and 36m long in the north-south direction. The lift was covered by two sliding lids each 30m wide x 18m long that opened north and south to reveal the lift pit.

Both the deck of the lift and the sliding lids were covered with the same LED screen, so that the image on the 147m x 22m screen was uninterrupted regardless of whether the lids were open or closed. The 26m x 36m lift platform descended to a depth of 6m.

Beneath this main loading level was a second chamber, 20m in diameter and 5.5m deep, designed in anticipation of an effect as yet unknown. Last winter, the engineers went ahead with the construction of the lift pit in the stadium, and with the construction of a rehearsal field in a suburb of Beijing where the flying-fox rigging system could be tested and rehearsed.

An early sub-title for the Opening Ceremony show was ‘Let’s Walk Together’. In response to this theme, Cai Guo-Qiang proposed a series of giant pyrotechnic footprints in the sky, marching along the central axis of Beijing from Tiananmen Square to the Olympic Park. The final footprint would explode overhead the Bird’s Nest, showering sparks into the stadium where they would fall like stars and ignite the LED screen display of the Olympic rings.

The creation of the globe was another challenge. It was the only piece of scenery that I personally designed. The creative team needed to find a way of uniting the idea of the globe (One World) with an image of aspiration (One Dream). The technical challenge for each proposal was the same.

The sphere had to appear as if from nowhere in the second half of the show, be in use for about five minutes, and then disappear cleanly to leave the field clear for the athletes. For visual reasons it needed to be at least 18m in diameter, a dimension that was much larger than the storage space available in the lift pit.

Although the construction and operation of each globe was different, they all shared a common idea — I believe that the artistic performances of an Olympic Ceremony should embody the same levels of personal risk, skill, effort and endurance that the athletes must deliver when they compete in the games. So my ideas for the various globes all included proposals for athletic artistic performance that would engage acrobats with the sphere, and push them to their limits.

I designed about half a dozen different spheres in the course of as many months. Finally, out of Yimou rejecting these other ideas came this really clear idea. I left a meeting in June 2007 seeing what we needed to do to get out of the logjam and I built an AutoCAD model for it on the nine hour flight back from Beijing. By the end of the week we had sent back a DVD with Adrian Mudd’s animation of the whole thing.

The sphere was made up from nine latitudinal rings, with a performance position for a group of singers at the north pole. The rings were structural trusses that functioned as running and rigging tracks for up to 60 performers who could run around them, always with their feet pointing inwards, towards the centre of the globe.

The image I wanted to create was of the performers being weightless as they ran on the surface of the sphere. The rigging was arranged to allow the performers to run, to leap, to turn somersaults and, at the lower latitudes, to fly around the sphere. The rings were also designed so that they would pack down into a space only 5m high. The sphere was lifted from its north pole by a telescoping mast. In my original design the mast was 30m high, but for economic reasons the mast was later shortened to 24m. In the original design the negative space between the rings was left open, making the sphere a transparent, multi-layered sculptural object.

Nobody has done what we did on the sphere before, and I think the novelty of the performance was the major attraction for the Chinese. The engineering was heroic but straightforward. The big challenge for the Chinese was creating the structure and the performance simultaneously. They had never built something original that was so large and where it was necessary to develop the engineering and the training in parallel, so there was a great deal of uncertainty about the process.

By January 2008 the performers were rehearsing on a full-sized prototype of the sphere, identical in every way to the finished structure, but mounted on a static mast.Once they saw the full-size prototype, the creative team insisted that it be changed to a solid looking globe. I lost the argument, and after a number of lighting tests the open spaces between the rings were filled with elastic webbing. This allowed the rings to nest together when the sphere was packed, the performers to pass through from inside to outside, and the projectors to see a solid surface.

The process of the creation of the show and the evolution of the style in which the sphere was done was the subject of continuous discussion for two years, meaning that we would start at 2pm and finish at 2am the following morning and do that for five days, and then I’d go back to England.

Decision-making in Asia is always very consensual. This means they have meetings with very large numbers of people which never seem to end. Decisions don’t get made until everybody agrees and that’s a very subtle process because there is a profound hierarchy in any meeting.

There will be an Emperor, which was always Yimou. Then there are the various courtiers arrayed below offering opinions, and all of which have to be squared away before a decision will be regarded as having been made. Westerners have a hard time understanding this because people will be nodding and saying ‘yes’ but they don’t actually mean ‘yes’, they may mean ‘Yes, that’s interesting’ or ‘Yes, what a jolly chap you are’, but they don’t mean ‘Yes, we’re going to do it’.

There was also a lot of politics, where team members who disagreed with something would come up with a catalogue of endless excuses as to why not to do it. Nobody would say ‘This is a crap idea and we’re not going to do it’. They’d never say ‘no’, but instead they would be obstructive in a very polite way. So it was a test of patience. I’ve got endless stories about how difficult it was but in the end they’re not relevant because the show was a triumphant success. I was privileged to be asked and very lucky to be there.


The Closing Ceremony was produced and directed by Zhang Yimou, with Chen Weiya acting as executive director. Although Yimou was the nominated director of the Closing Ceremony, Weiya had a lot of autonomy. I had worked with him on the BeiAu proposal for the Beijing Olympic Ceremonies competition entry in 2005, and he invited me to join his team at the end of 2006.

The Closing Ceremony is always the poor relation of the Opening because the time for technical installation is very short and the opportunity for dress rehearsals in the stadium non-existent. The creative ambition of the show must therefore be limited when compared to the Opening Ceremony.

Weiya and his team were convinced (as I was) that the Closing Ceremony needed a tall feature at some point in the show to add a third dimension to an otherwise flat event. Weiya’s first proposal featured a 30m tall tower of ladders in the centre of the stadium which Yimou did not like and for the next nine months the idea for a tower was repeatedly redesigned, rejected and redesigned again in various forms. The idea was finally accepted when I sketched a tower of human bodies in the summer of 2007.

The final tower proposal became known as the Tower of Memory, which would be capable of lifting the 398 performers who eventually worked on to it. Somewhere in the middle of the indecision on the tower, my proposal for wide ribbon deployment from the top of the tower to the stadium rigging was also included in the proposal. The Closing Ceremony was divided into three sections entitled ‘Reunion’ (which included the Handover Ceremony), ‘The Tower of Memory’ and ‘Carnival’.

BSEDI designed the rigging installation for the flying effects in the stadium. As is usual in these projects, the evolution of the rigging involved some obstructive posturing by the stadium management,

In the summer of 2006, when an aerial rigging system was first proposed, they imposed completely irrational constraints on the design. Insisting that the whole roof (a structure weighing 45,000 tons) would collapse if more than 12 tons of rigging load was applied to it, they also insisted that the rigging could only be attached to the low steel of the roof trusses. This meant that in the centre of the stadium the rigging cables would be less than 30m above the field.

This bizarre state of affairs was faithfully reproduced in a rigging installation built at the rehearsal site in Daxing, 50km south of Beijing. It was only after senior party members saw the resulting ground-scraping demonstration of the LED Olympic rings in the late spring of 2008 that permission was given to rig off the high steel, placing the rigging at a more useful 45m above the field.

The final rigging arrangement consisted of seven cables, 192m long spanning north/south, and three ropes arranged radially spanning east/west between 160m and 170m. Thirty-one ‘flying fox’ rigs ran on the 17 cables, with payloads between 100 and 300kg. All winches ran at up to 3m per second. One humdred winches around the rim of the stadium provided vertical ‘jumping’ positions, and nine winches mounted on tracks around the rim provided rigging for acrobatic ‘runners’ around the rim.

The multimedia equipment for the show was defined in the spring of 2008. After a long debate on the relative merits of Barco and Christie projectors, the video department decided to go with Christie digital light projectors (DLPs). Sixty-three projectors in 21 groups of three were arranged to project on to the rim of the stadium roof — a total image area 12m high x 500m long.

Eight projectors were arranged in four pairs to project on to the sphere. Eighty projectors fitted with High End mirror heads were arranged for projection on to the field — these were overlapped in various combinations depending on image location.

The 147m long x 22m wide LED screen in the centre of the field was supplied by GLux of Shenzhen. An additional 44,000 RGB LED pixels, each 50mm square, were mounted in the show floor, set out in a 600mm grid on each side of the main LED screen.


Looking back on the whole process I can say that it did reinforce something I have always understood: that having and maintaining powerful ideas is the key to a successful show.

From the outset, Yimou had the clear vision that paper, calligraphy and ink painting could form a metaphor for the story of China. His vision went through a million iterations and a tortuous path to get to the end. But the confidence of his vision confirmed my own experience of how good shows come together. The rest was just patience and tenacity.


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And I might as well repost this from awhile back for those who haven't seen it yet:

The Making of the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxUKf6W6wI8

Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jREgpehYMXg&

Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPdgXUCBZBo&

Part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOUWzyE5LgM&

Part 5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvamUNmDqto&

It focuses a bit too much on the 'footprints,' but I would also say it's worth a watch.

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Also, here's the Official list of OC credits, POST- Steven Spielberg.

Other non-Chinese talents in Bold.

Production Credits

Opening Ceremony Credits

BOCOG Director of Opening and Closing Ceremonies Department: Zhang Heping

BOCOG Director of Opening and Closing Ceremonies Centre: Wang Ning

Director of Technology Group: Yu Jianping

Director of Production: Lu Jiankang

Cultural Advisors to the Opening and Closing Ceremonies

Ji Xianlin

He Zhenliang

Tang Yijie

Jin Shangyi

Wu Zuqiang

Xu Xiaozhong

Chen Kaige

Yves Pepin

Ric Birch

Ang Lee

Quincy Jones

Core Creative Team

Zhang Yimou, Zhang Jigang, Chen Weiya, Cai Guo-Qiang, Fan Yue, Wang Chaoge

Assistant to the Core Creative Team: Jennifer Wen Ma

Producer and Director: Zhang Yimou

First Segment Director: Zhang Jigang

Second Segment Director: Chen Weiya

Director of Music: Chen Qigang

Director of Production Design: Mark Fisher

Director of Art and Design: Chen Yan

Director of Lighting: Sha Xiaolan

Director of Visual Image: Yang Quingsheng

Director of Visual and Special Effects: Cai Guo-Qiang

Director of Costume: Eiko Ishioka

Director of Makeup: Xu Jiahua

Director of Stunts: Tony Ching Siu Tung

Director of Acoustic Design: Gary Hardesty

Assistant to Mark Fisher: Kathy Lagonegro

Matty, Jack Morton WW is not credited; so I don't think they participated. Strange how Yang Zhimou DOESN'T HOG all the credits.

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Builders Reveal Secrets of Giant Olympic Cauldron

The giant Beijing Olympic Games cauldron came as the last of many surprises at Friday's opening ceremony, as little was known of it before the final moment.

It was actually a 32-meter steel structure in the shape of a torch, imprinted with patterns of auspicious clouds and wrapped in a red spiral strip that was made to appear like an extension of the "scroll" on which the cauldron lighter was "space-walking".

The builder, Beijing's Shougang Group, had worked for seven months in secret to turn a blueprint into reality for the audience of millions -- building it, hoisting it onto the top of the facility and hiding it there.

Artistic Creation vs Engineering Design

On the blueprint provided by the ceremony organizers, there were just a few specifications: the outline of the cauldron, its rough size, its planned location at the National Stadium, or the Bird's Nest, and the maximum load allowed.

To get the perfect shape expected by artists, engineers said they had to build the cauldron with as many components as possible.

"Steel products used for the cauldron were mostly pieces of handwork, not from mass production lines," said Wang Wenli, Party Secretary of the Shougang Group, China's leading steel maker.

The skeleton was made up of more than 2,000 unique steel pipes ranging in size from 7 cm to 39 cm.

"Cutting out conjunctions that link different pipes was the most difficult part of building the skeleton," said Li Tingxiang, the project manager.

Even the digital cutters failed to produce such conjunctions that could connect pipes of so many different sizes. "In the end, we had to write specific computer programs for the cutters to do the job."

The exterior of the cauldron was composed of 1,026 different 1-mm steel plates, which were heavily perforated to reduce wind resistance.

Engineers did numerous experiments at a site in the capital's eastern suburbs before they managed to build the huge torch, Wand said.

A site was set up for experimenting and construction shortly after the company got the assignment in December last year. It also erected a top-covered rectangular shield to keep it from exposure.

The total cost of the giant cauldron was about 10 million yuan (1.45 million U.S. dollars), Wang said.

In Position Atop Bird's Nest

How could a 10-story, 45-ton structure get to the top of the Bird's Nest? This was no theoretical question; it was a real challenge builders had to overcome.

Engineers were asked to place the cauldron at a precise location on the northeast top of the stadium, with only a 2-mm margin for error. More than that distance "would have made it impossible for the latches on one side of the cauldron to slot into place," Wang said. The latches were designed to achieve a seamless link with the "scroll".

Making the task tougher was the fact that the stadium itself, built of steel, tends to swell or contract daily with changing temperatures. The height difference could reach 70 cm between the extremes of summer heat and winter cold, according to Shougang engineers.

On the day when the cauldron was lifted onto the roof of the Bird's Nest in May, an 800-ton crane was summoned to the task. The vehicle was the only one with a working arm of more than 570 meters and load-bearing capacity of more than 500 tons.

Workers had to stand on steel beams and yank at ropes against the wind to help lift the colossus smoothly.

The workers held their breath, Li said. "Any collision with the beams would have caused irreparable damage to both."

Stealth Before Debut

The secrecy of the cauldron became a top priority after it was positioned on top of the Bird's Nest.

A 30-meter upturned-U-shaped air-cushioned facility was set up to house the big torch. The cauldron, which stirred much guesswork before the ceremony, had actually been lying flat on top of the opening stadium for more than two months.

Engineers also designed a rail and a small cart to carry the cauldron, so that the monster could move smoothly above the rugged beam surface from the previous location to the edge of the venue opening.

Hydraulic equipment was used to make it stand up for the flame-lighting, including a hydraulic jack to push it up and another device to hold the bottom.

The whole facility, plus the cauldron, weighed about 405 tons.

The cauldron's final journey, horizontally and up, was designed to start at the touch of a button. Automatic controls were used to minimize accidents.

"We pressed the button at 10:08 p.m. on August 8, when thousands of audiences were attentively watching the parade of athletes, and the cauldron was in place at 10:24 without being noticed," said Su Baozhen, deputy general manager of Shougang.

The torch-shaped cauldron will be used during the Paralympics and might become an item at exhibitions or be recycled afterwards.

(Xinhua News Agency August 13, 2008)


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