Woodchopping apparatus with log, steel/wood, designed by Dan Potra, made by the Ceremonies Workshop Mark McKinley, used in the Tin Symphony segment of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, Sydney 2000
This woodchopping apparatus, consisting of a trolley, frame, log and hammer, has significance in material culture due to its role in the opening ceremony of the 2000 Olympic Games, an important event in the social history of Sydney and NSW. It has the potential to communicate in exhibitions and publications about the Sydney Olympic Games and has historical significance in its design, making, use and in the cultural meanings ascribed to it.
Described by the NSW premier Bob Carr as 'the greatest spectacle Australia has produced', the opening ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games took place at Stadium Australia, Homebush Bay on Friday 15 September 2000.
The opening ceremony was the subject of much public expectation. After years of controversy and insecurity around issues like Ric Birch's infamous kangaroos on bicycles (from the Atlanta closing ceremony) and the recruitment of American musicians in a proposed marching band for Sydney's opening ceremony, it was perceived as a test of Australia's cultural competence. Could Australia deliver a modern, sophisticated performance or were we to embarrass ourselves?
The overwhelmingly positive public response to the opening ceremony inspired a sense of relief among Sydneysiders. In the upsurge of goodwill and excitement (which began when the torch relay arrived in Sydney) the media dropped its negative attacks on the Games' organisers and embraced the extraordinary spirit that had gripped the city. The public had finally claimed ownership of the Games. Cynicism melted away for two weeks as locals revelled in the rare carnival atmosphere.
The opening ceremony had anthems, speeches, oaths, flags, a marching band, pop singers and a parade of the athletes from 199 competing nations. However the daring conceptual sequences ('Deep Sea Dreaming', 'Awakening', 'Nature', 'Tin Symphony', 'Arrivals' and 'Eternity') will be remembered as the ceremony's great imaginative works. Each segment commenced without interruption, following on from the last to form an overall narrative. The purpose was to project a national image to a worldwide audience, to form the world's vision of Australian culture. This image embraced tolerance, social progress, multiculturalism and reconciliation, as well as nature, history and creativity. Designed to stimulate emotional responses from the audience, these segments delivered a refreshing mixture of youth, naivety and larrikinism.
The creative team comprised 13,000 artists and performers, including designers, choreographers, circus artists, costume makers, set builders and painters, singers, composers, writers, arrangers, dancers, musicians. Even more than the high quality costume design, choreography and music, the props were talking points, with the Endeavour tricycle and the Ned Kelly horse attracting the most attention.
The complex and inventive 'Tin Symphony' segment, directed by Nigel Jamieson, involved 850 performers. It examined the impact of Europeans' arrival on the land after 60,000 years of Aboriginal habitation. 'Tin Symphony' began with the arrival on the spectacular Endeavour tricycle of Captain Cook and his crew (accompanied by a rabbit). The explorers carried telescopes and sketchbooks, looking in wonder at the flora and fauna. The colonists brought new technologies and materials, symbolised by corrugated iron, metal windmills and steel farming machinery. Even Ned Kelly encased himself in metal, continuing the theme of mechanisation. The segment cleverly linked icons of colonial and rural Australia, such as a gently parodied Captain Cook, resourceful pioneers, Ned Kelly, Irish girls, a sheep-making machine, woodchoppers, corrugated iron windmills, derricks, water tanks and farm machinery, with modern images of suburbia, lawn mowers and the beach. The presence of the woodchoppers signified the pioneers clearing the land. The segment had an implicit theme of the settlers' humour and resourcefulness in the face of adversity. It ended with the descendents of the settlers - the modern Australian, who has tamed and transformed the land, symbolised by the lawnmower ballet, a kind of serenade to suburbia, its backyards and barbecues.
Designed by Dan Potra, Sydney NSW, 1999. The original idea for the woodchopping sequence called for the logs to be carried out by the axemen and placed into a stand of some sort. The size of log required demanded more manpower or less weight. Logs of woolly butt trees were ordered for prototyping and sent to Australian Winch and Haulage for hollowing to reduce weight. Before the ceremonies workshop was set up, an early prototype was designed by Reg Dew, Leading Rigger and Salken Engineering, with the hinged stand and wheel axle. The weight of the hollowed log still proved unwieldy even with the trolley as designed. Modifications
The fulcrum point needed to be higher to stand the log easier.
The project was taken over by the ceremonies construction team and the design was refined to add larger wheels and make the removal of wheels and axle easier. The log was changed to pine to reduce weight.
The finished design was easily used by two performers to carry and stand the log and make it stable when holding an axe wielding woodchopper. It also made striking the log much faster and safer at the end of the segment.