Sellery Health + Safety Blog

July 8, 2010

The Olympic Cauldron – what took so long?

Filed under: Safety Musings — jsellery @ 8:49 pm

With the approach of Canada Day, the stores are filling up with flags as well as red and white merchandise of all kinds, and I am reminded of those incredible weeks of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

As the Health & Safety Manager for David Atkins Enterprises Productions (the company that produced the Opening, Closing and Victory Ceremonies), I got to play a part in that great adventure and I have never felt more Canadian.

Everyone wants to know – What happened to the Olympic cauldron in the Opening Ceremony?

On the big night, one of the traps failed to open and one of the four cauldron arms could not be raised. The traps had worked fine in rehearsal and even earlier in the performance when they opened for the raising of the totems.

Despite many months of thorough planning, design, engineering, risk assessment, installation, testing, approval and rehearsal, in a live performance, these things happen. The specific component that failed doesn’t matter, but what was important was the response. 

Martin Levesque (Technical Manager, Cauldron) and Lyndall Milenkovic (Control Room and Emergency Manager) had created procedures to address every possibility. When the trap wouldn’t open, the decision was made to go with three arms. There was a delay as the crew followed their procedures to disable the gas and pyro on the fourth arm before they could continue. I was so proud of the level-headed decision making from all of those people in the control room and under the stage that ensured that everyone was safe and that we did get a glorious flame.

Of course, everyone was disappointed that it didn’t work perfectly, but that soon gave way to an idea for beginning the Closing Ceremony. For those of you who saw it, I’m sure you’ll agree that it was pure genius and set the tone for a light-hearted finale to a memorable Olympics.

This is a reminder for all of us who work in live performance– the greater the risk, the greater the need for planning around all possible problems that could arise during a show.

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