The Beijing Olympics had one of the most memorable opening ceremonies in recent memory, and the iconic Bird's Nest stadium played a huge role in the production. Photo courtesy of Flickr user J Y F+
There are certain traditions prescribed for the Olympic Opening Ceremony, such as the raising of the Olympic flag, the entrance of athletes and the lighting of the torch, but the real intrigue of the event is the theme established by each host country and the precedent it sets for the rest of the Games. This year’s opening ceremony is called “The Isles of Wonder” and is being coordinated by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle. The eyes of the world will be on London come Friday, and I’m excited to see how Britain’s history and culture is manifested in the production of the opening ceremony.
In Beijing, we saw a cultural spectacle. Costing $100 million to produce, and featuring 15,000 performers, the show was quite possibly the greatest production the world has ever seen. However, watching the televised Beijing Opening Ceremony was incomparable to actually attending the opening ceremony of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. With a patriotic focus on American culture as a whole (as opposed to solely that of Los Angeles), attending the ’84 ceremony solidified my passion for the Olympics and converted me into a critic of the opening and closing ceremonies.
If I were to design an Olympic stadium for the opening ceremony there are some key elements that would drive my design of the facility. These aren’t necessarily the most important aspects of stadia design, but in my opinion these elements are crucial to the way viewers watch and athletes participate in the opening and closing ceremonies of the games.
1.) Regardless of the shape of the venue, the focal point of an Olympic stadium is in my mind the most important aspect of the facility. Ideally, I would design a stadium in a U shape so it has a central stage area where the entire stadium can direct its attention towards. The opening ceremony is essentially a play, and establishing a main stage area is pertinent to the success of the theatrical production.
2.) There must also be a permanent location for the Olympic flame that can be seen equally well throughout the entire stadium. The flame is the life blood of the Olympics and accentuating it is an important aspect of the Games. The flame will without a doubt be the most televised image during the entire 16 day period. Even if the stadium is going to be repurposed, it is important to place the flame in a location where it will remain for the duration of the facilities’ existence. The Los Angeles Coliseum is a perfect example of this design philosophy. The flame is still the keystone of the iconic stadium and is relit during every Olympic Games.
Keith Fuchigami is a registered architect with more than 34 years of professional experience. When he's not thinking about how the programming and the design of sporting venues affect how fans experience the games, he's rooting for his favorite teams to get a leg up on the competition. He also loves to speak at public events about the future of sports and recreation facilities. Got a question? Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.