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London 2012 Olympics 

Large Scenic Props

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Artem had the honour of being asked to create a multitude of large props, scenic pieces, and effects for the London 2012 opening and closing ceremonies. Working with Danny Boyle, Artem's contributions helped create a magnificent piece of British history that people will remember for years to come.

Project Breakdown 

Join us as we breakdown each piece that we created for the iconic London 2012 Olympics opening and closing ceremonies.

Giant Sleeping Baby

The baby's head was based on one of Artem's stock hire baby dummies.  It had base dimensions of 10m x 6m and folded up out of four beds that were wheeled onto the field of play.  The idea was that the piece resembled pages of a book.

Child Catcher Carriage

Mainly built in our Glasgow workshop, the 7m tall carriage had to look impossibly high, yet be stable in operation.  It also had to get in and out of the stadium through a 4m maximum height entrance.  To achieve this, it hinged backwards manually with ease.

Scenic House

The Scenic House represented the ordinary man in the street and had to weigh a maximum of 1.5T so that it could be lifted by the aerial system in the stadium. The house had to come into the stadium in two halves and during a scene change is lifted and locked together.

It was clad in polyurethane foam sheet and looked so real that on a few occasions a stagehand pushed against the "brick" panels, only to watch their hands go right through!

Cottage Smoke

Smoke machines were installed within the cottage on stage to give the scene a little extra atmosphere.  The effect was designed to run for three hours while the audience entered the stadium for the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.

The Giant Puppets

In total, Artem built four giant inflatable puppets for the London 2012 Opening Ceremony. Each had to be concealed within a bed of dimensions 4m x 2.5m

Each puppet started life as a maquette and went through various stages of design and approval.

The Red Queen's bed had to rise to 3m in to the air and rotate. Pneumatic radio masts were used for the legs while the body was fully inflatable with a fabricated foam face.

Captain Hook's head hinged out of the bed and telescoped up and down, while his hooks were puppeteered on LED springs.

Cruella inflated into a long elongated figure, stretching out as the pack of Dalmatians pulled her round the stadium.  Inside the figure, puppeteers animated her head and arms while external puppeteers moved her legs. 

Molten Metal FX

The crucible had to look as if it contained molten metal and this was achieved with lighting and smoke.  For the flowing trough, Artem supplied pyrotechnics to give sparks and smoke as the LED lights turned on simulating the metal's progress. 

Industrial Revolution Chimneys

Within each chimney, there was a remotely controlled unit designed to fill a ring round the top of the chimney, making it look like it was belching smoke but actually keeping the amount of smoke to a minimum.  In addition, as the chimneys were made of fabric and had to be hoisted into position (they telescoped and inflate) a safety rig was incorporated that could take the weight of the base unit when the fabric was fully paid out, and thus prevent the fabric itself from being torn apart when the aerial system in the stadium flexed. 


Voldemort rose to 20 metres, but before emerging, he was contained within a bed on stage, dimensions 4m x 2.5m, like the other puppets built by Artem (The Red Queen, Captain Hook and Cruella de Vil). 

Voldemort was raised by the aerial system and inflated as he went, then puppeteered from the ground.  During the action, we had pyrotechnics in the wand to deliver a shower of colourful sparks as he cast his spells. 

Paralympics Fireflies

Twenty-one aerial units were made to fly into the stadium with an acrobat on each.  They each consisted of carefully designed and tested rigs with a dozen changing over-sized lightbulbs changing colour on each and real flame elements incorporated. 

The fireflies were built in our Glasgow workshop. 

Paralympics Firebikes

Artem built fifty gas-powered Firebikes for use in the fire sequence in the Paralympics Closing Ceremony. Completely self contained - the bikes were ignited by a small pyrotechnic charge and controlled by "tow" bikes which held the small propane cylinder and the pyrotechnic firing box. 

The scenic house

Moulding the firefly lightbulbs

Firefly bulbs

Cruella de Vil's shoe

Captain Hook's puppet head and bed

Voldemort's sculpt and face pattern

Captain Hook's head sculpt and paint

Voldemort's puppet face paint

Baby sculpt book pages construction

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Closing Ceremony

The Octobus 

Probably the single most complicated project that Artem completed for the ceremonies which, combined with the many changes along the way and the limited time available, caused a few sleepless nights.

Like most of the items built for the Olympics, the Octobus started out on a computer screen to sort out the practicalities of the design, such as weight, which was a major design criteria due to the staging on which it would have to drive, as well as the visual design for approval purposes.  From here, the physical work progressed in two distinct areas: the bus itself, built from scratch and powered electrically, and the transparent inflatable Octopus, that had to inflate out of it.

The chassis was welded out of lightweight steel and clad mainly in aluminium.  The design was based on the type of bus used in The Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour" and eventually had a psychedelic design wrapped around it as well as indentations to hold dancers, whose costumes matched the pattern. 

Alongside the bus design and build, the issues surrounding the huge Octopus challenged the fabrication team.  In the first instance, a clay model was produced to work out the size, both to cover the bus out of which it had to inflate and to determine what it would look like in the stadium.  Although the initial decision was for a tentacle size 15m long and 1.3m diameter, it quickly grew to 22m long and 1.7m diameter, roughly doubling the material needed to construct it!  And making an Octopus that was eventually 50m diameter overall. 

The Octopus was fabricated from clear PVC and inflated with multiple fans, one for each tentacle and three for the body.  Special paint was required to spray the PVC and it took the entire main workshop at Artem to accommodate each. Finally, 700m of colour changing LEDs were installed together with their control systems to enable the Octopus to fully come to life! 

Rehearsal day

Deflated tentacles attached to bus

Testing the LEDs

The finished bus

Painting the tentacles

Painting the tentacles

Building the bus

Painting the tentacles

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Photo credit - Tower Bridge - Garry Knight/Flickr - Industrial chimneys - Maykal/Flickr

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