After five months on-site in Beijing—other than one quick detour to light Signapore’s National Day Celebration on August 9— Australian LD Paul Collison is finally ready to head home to Sydney. The Closing Ceremony in Beijing on August 24 was not nearly as complex and challenging as the Opening Ceremony (check out the September issue of Live Design), yet had its own set of challenges. “We did not get control of the stadium until noon on the day of the event,” says Collison, meaning there was just an eight-hour turn-around from sports events to performance events. There was also very little time to use the Bird’s Nest, as the national sports stadium in Beijing is called, during the Games due to its busy schedule. “For some of the lighting, the guys were busking,” Collison admits.
The lighting rig remained the same, with the addition of eight Robert Juliat Lancelot followspots, which were not used in the opening ceremony (see my blog on this subject the Live Blog). Collison, who also worked on the 2002 Olymics in Sydney, comments on how much lighting technology has changed since then: “In Sydney, at least two-thirds of the rig was analog. In Beijing there was not one single dimmer rack, it was all automated.”
Part of the Closing Ceremony was the handover from Beijing 2008 to London 2012, with this special section lit by the UK-based LD Durham Marenghi. The highlight of this performance segment was a double-decker London “bus” that opened on the top to create a stage (very clever). At one point the performers use a series of umbrellas whose tops are LED screens, run from the bus by Tim Rutledge. “They used a grandMA onPC with their pixel-mapping software. I think this is an indication of what the London games will be like,” says Collison. “More technology.”
The set pieces for the closing ceremonies, designed by scenic master Mark Fisher—who also designed the Opening Ceremony and spent the better part of the last year in Beijing as well—included a metal tower that was used to lift the performers for a scene called ‘Tower of Memory.’ "It is completely different in design and construction to the tower that was used to lift the ‘Dream Sphere,’ says Fisher, referring to the giant globe used in the August 8 event. "Different height, different everything. The Dream Sphere tower was taken out on the weekend following the Opening Ceremony, andthe Tower of Memory was installed. The installation was then covered over until the afternoon of the Closing Ceremony, when it was uncovered, partly lifted up, and surrounded by the Closing Ceremony stage."
As the Olympic torch was extinguished in Beijing, a squadron of acrobats on harnesses attached to the metal frame of the tower created an incredible “human flame” effect which flickered as their bodies undulated in and out from the armature. Large fabric banners were also flown from the tower up toward the sky.