Friday, September 22, 2023

ECA2 Makes Budapest and Danube River Stars of FINA Opening Ceremonies

For one night only on July 14th, an enormous spectacle thriledl audiences worldwide to celebrate aquatic sports’ finest.  The FINA World Championships Opening Ceremony was an artistic technical achievement co-created by French showmakers ECA2 and Hungary’s cultural hothouse Müpa Budapest.

The mission: to kickoff aquatic sports’ most prestigious biennial event with a splash to be felt all around the world, to create a live spectacle that would be equally stunning to the audience onsite as it would be to television and online viewers. The place: one of Europe’s most charming capitals, Budapest, with its emblematic Buda Castle perched majestically over the Danube River.

The challenges facing the team included improving on the timeless perfection of such a historic city, already recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site and how to plug such a monumental technical set-up into the heart of a city that was never intended as an entertainment venue.

Faced with the task, the teams got to work on the theme: The Memory of Water. Creative talent from Müpa Budapest took inspiration from the history of Hungary and their city, drawing upon the eternal river Danube as a story thread of continuity and unstoppable energy. The connection was made between the element of water and Humankind, to excite anticipation for all the epic aquatic sports that would soon unfold.


ECA2 then applied their unique technical expertise to “borrow” the Danube, channeling its waters to take a powerful starring role as choreographed jets, sprays, and mid-air water screens for projected video images. Pushing technical capabilities further still, ten-meter-long flames danced amidst laser effects, night-beating lightbeams, a pulsating soundscape, fireworks and drones. Creating a new mold for opening ceremonies, a troupe of more than 500 live performers, 220 volunteers and sportsmen interacted with sophisticated multimedia technologies, merging innovative dance with a plethora of effects.

For this one night only, the Danube, the Buda Castle, and the Chain Bridge became a single vast theater, where projected images told thrilling tales of old, and echoed through the excitement of today’s sporting “rendez-vous”. This was a first for an Opening Ceremony, where a far-off cityscape defined the theater limits, and offered a monumental depth of field for video projection and special effects. Everything emanated from a floating stage right on the river, occupying an overall area twice as large as an Olympic stadium. The floating set-up itself covered the equivalent of 3 football fields and presented its own special challenges: despite high river traffic, the current and tide, projected video content being projected onto structures had to cleverly compensate for any movement.

Public Opening: July 14, 2017
Venue: Budapest, Hungary

Project Type: One-night Opening Ceremony
Project Development: 4 months
Show Duration: 120 minutes (protocol included)


* Field of play: 200,000 m2, equivalent of 20 football fields

* 540 tons of equipment, 24 km of cables

* A floating set-up covering 8,000 m2 on the Danube (equivalent of 3 football fields)

* 500+ live performers, 220 volunteers and sportsmen

Team involved in the project: 200 people.
Executive Production by ECA2

Producer: Jean-Christophe CANIZARES


eca2: Lighting up the night


Joe Kleiman
Joe Kleiman
Raised in San Diego on theme parks, zoos, and IMAX films, InPark's Senior Correspondent Joe Kleiman would expand his childhood loves into two decades as a projectionist and theater director within the giant screen industry. In addition to his work in commercial and museum operations, Joe has volunteered his time to animal husbandry at leading facilities in California and Texas and has played a leading management role for a number of performing arts companies. Joe previously served as News Editor and has remained a contributing author to InPark Magazine since 2011. HIs writing has also appeared in Sound & Communications, LF Examiner, Jim Hill Media, The Planetarian, Behind the Thrills, and MiceChat His blog, takes an unconventional look at the attractions industry. Follow on twitter @ThemesRenewed Joe lives in Sacramento, California with his wife, dog, and a ghost.

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