Four years ago tonight, nearly 61,000 stadium spectators and a global television audience of a billion watched the Opening Ceremony of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
The intimate and deeply moving Ceremony was the brainchild of David Atkins of Australia’s David Atkins Enterprises, which was previously responsible for other large internationally significant ceremonial productions such as the Sydney 2000 Olympic Ceremonies, the Doha 2006 Asian Games Ceremonies, Expo Shanghai 2010 Opening Ceremony, and the Opening Ceremony for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Atkins has given Vancity Buzz an exclusive look at some of the beautiful imagery and design frames that were used for the projections during Vancouver Opening and Closing Ceremonies at BC Place. In addition to the projections, Atkins has also shared conceptual artistic visualizations of Wayne Gretzky’s trek through city streets from BC Place to Jack Poole Plaza, the placement and design of the Olympic Cauldron at Jack Poole Plaza, and the concept plan for the Nightly Medal Ceremonies at BC Place.
With the theme “landscape of a dream,” the audience for the Opening Ceremony was transported across Canada, from the Prairies to the peaks of mountain tops, the depths of the ocean, and through its varied seasons as BC Place transformed into different landscapes through images projected onto all surfaces, including the building’s roof fabric, stages, screens, and members of the audience dressed all in white.
Designs for visual projections were also commissioned for a significant French act to acknowledge and embrace Quebec culture as an intrinsic part of Canada. However, Atkins and his team were forced to unwind the segment months before February 2010 when Quebec composer Giles Vigneault, who was strongly associated with the separatist movement, refused to grant VANOC permission to use his song Mon Pays.
Ultimately, the French act was dropped as it was choreographed to his song and it led to the inclusion of Quebec pop singer Garou who sang Un peu plus haut, un peu plus loin just prior to the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron. The storyboard and design frames for the Mon Pays act are shown below.
For the Closing Ceremony, an elaborate – and deliberately over-the-top – musical routine in the style of Hollywood master Busby Berkeley played off some of Canada’s most iconic and lampooned cultural imagery.
As crooner Michael Bublé gave a swinging, jazzy rendition of the Canadian standard The Maple Leaf Forever he was joined by singing and dancing performers dressed in the red serge uniforms of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), tabletop hockey players, voyageurs, lumberjacks, dancing canoes, flying maple leaves, giant inflatable beavers and moose, as well as a motorized Stetson hat in homage to this staple of the traditional RCMP uniform.
The projections were masterfully created by graphic artist Alen Puaca and produced by Spiniflex, which also had a major role in the visual elements of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Opening Ceremony.
Homage to Emily Carr. Her style paintings of the NorthWest totem poles for the begining of “Sacred Grove” segment, performances by Alberta Ballet and Sarah McLachlan.
Maple Leafs everywhere. These few leaves informed the aesthetic of projected piles as well as stage props for the “Rhythms of the Fall”. Ashley McIssac on a fiddle with a hundreds more fiddlers and tappers.
Storyboard of ring screens’ projections throughout the Rhythms of the Fall segment.
For “Who has Seen the Wind” the whole stadium was painted blue. Central Field of Play with video projections and the audience seating with lights and PIGI all in sync. Entire storyboard for this sequence included the content for all the areas. With a great aerialist’s choreography by David Atkins and the music by Joni Mitchell, this piece looked beautifully elegant.
Homage to Lawren Harris and the Group of Seven, this mountain looked pretty good against red costume aerialists.
Design frames for verses for “Un peu plus haut”, performed by Garou.
This is an act that, although well designed, directed and choreographed, didn’t get into the Vancouver Olympics Opening Ceremony. It is based on Gilles Vigneault’s song Mon Pays.
The look of the motion graphics for the piece is inspired by Quebec painters Lemeiux, Barbeau, Borduas as well as NFB animators McLaren, Larkin, Leaf, Bochner etc. Here are the storyboards for the song (design frames at the same time) that were supposed to be projected on the central Field of Play.
A artistic rendering of the Olympic Cauldron at the centre of the Field of Play.
A visualization of the main entrance to BC Place Stadium at Terry Fox Plaza when Wayne Gretzky begins his journey to light the main Olympic Cauldron at Jack Poole Plaza.
Crowds line the street to watch Wayne Gretzky being driven to Jack Poole Plaza to light the main Olympic Cauldron.
The Olympic Cauldron’s position at Jack Poole Plaza was originally envisioned for the north end of the plaza, not the centre.
Art deco maple leaf – animated texture for Michael Buble and the big band performance.
Mounties projected support – cutouts, plastic, wooden figurines.
Mounties souvenirs on the ring screens.
Field of Play setup for the entrance of the hockey skaters.
Hockey skaters arrive on a frozen pond.
Setting up tabletop hockey on Field of Play.
Tabletop hockey game on the ring screens.
Entrance of the Maple Leaf girls.
Plush toy beaver in the ring screens.
After the voyagers, the beavers step in and build a dam.
Flying moose in the projections.
Floor projection for the final tableau.
Projection support for the Busby Berkeley choreography on the central Field of Play.
Images: Allen Puaca / David Atkins Enterprises