Tank cycle, small, theatrical prop, used in 'Tin Symphony', Opening Ceremony for the Olympic Games, Sydney, 2000, designed by Dan Potra, made by Matt Weston and Mark McKinely at the Ceremonies Workshop, Sydney 2000
Designed by Dan Potra, this small 'tank cycle' was one of several mechanical props to be used in 'Tin Symphony', a theatrical segment in the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games. Combining a tricycle with a corrugated steel water tank, it represents an abstract piece of farming machinery and reiterates the segment's industrial theme. Cyclists wheeled this and similar tank cycles onto the arena, varying their speed in accordance with music and choreography. Like all ceremony props, the tank cycles were made in 2000 at the Ceremonies Workshop at Eveleigh, Sydney.
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. Though the ceremony featured anthems, speeches, oaths, flags, pop singers and a marching band, its daring conceptual sequences ('Deep Sea Dreaming', 'Awakening', 'Nature', 'Tin Symphony', 'Arrivals' and 'Eternity') will be remembered as the major 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 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 cycle carrying a gently parodied Captain Cook and his crew (accompanied by a caged rabbit). It consisted of three linked tricycles, propelled by conventional bicycle pedals, with a total length of 11 metres and a height of 3 metres. The explorers carried telescopes and sketchbooks, looking in wonder at the unfamiliar flora and fauna.
As 'Tin Symphony' unfolded, 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 Captain Cook, resourceful pioneers, Ned Kelly, Irish girls, a sheep-making machine, corrugated iron windmills, derricks, water tanks and farm machinery, with modern images of suburbia, lawn mowers and the beach. 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 Australians, who has tamed and transformed the land, symbolised by the lawnmower ballet, a kind of serenade to suburbia, its backyards and barbecues.
Dan Potra designed this 'tank cycle' to represent an abstract piece of farming equipment - the work of bike designer, Wayne Kotzur, greatly influenced this concept. The bike is powered by a pedal system and is controlled by a steering wheel and bicycle brakes. (The steering wheel and front wheel are connected by pulley). Brown paint has been applied to the exterior to simulate patches of rust.
Matt Weston and Mark McKinely manufactured this small tank cycle in 2000 at the Ceremonies Workshop at Eveleigh. Made from a tubular steel frame, the giant tricycle supports a standard-size water tank and features patches of brown paint that simulate rust. Specially fabricated wheels (3 metres in diameter) are attached to the rear axle while the front motorcycle wheel is fitted with bicycle brakes and connected by pulley to the steering wheel. A frame is mounted to the axle, allowing the operator to stand on a 'crank' type system to assist the drive train. A large 'castor' system supports the backrest and holds the operator upright while standing and peddling.
The tank cycles were used as theatrical props in 'Tin Symphony', a segment in the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games. The ceremony was held at Stadium Australia, Sydney Olympic Park, on 15 September 2000.
Made for and owned by the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, and donated to the Powerhouse Museum after the Games.