Julia Rutherford Silvers, CSEP

Certified Special Events Professional

Event Management Authority

Like angels and elephants dancing on the head of a pin, our dreams and responsibilities may have no limits, but must be balanced according to the music of the moment.









Design Case Study

22 July 2007

Excerpts from the paper Case Study of the Opening Ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics Using the Design Knowledge Domain of the EMBOK as a Framework for Analysis, presented at the

2006 Las Vegas International Hospitality and Convention Summit.

© 2006. Julia Rutherford Silvers, CSEP. All Rights Reserved

The Case Study Event

The EMBOK Analysis

Overview of Theme Design Management

The Case Study Analysis


Case studies have long been recognized as a valuable learning tool, providing instructors with methods for promoting mental inquiry and students with real life examples to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate. In the realm of events, there is arguably no better case study example than the Olympic Games due to its global recognition and hallmark status. Using the Opening Ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics Games as the case study event and the Design domain of the EMBOK framework, the potential of the EMBOK as a structure for deconstructing and analyzing an event in the context of the case study method is illustrated.


Allowing students of event management to examine the event’s discrete elements facilitates numerous learning activities ranging from the introduction of event technologies and applications (knowledge and comprehension) to the identification and assessment of the aesthetic and operational implications associated with the program elements (application and analysis) to the critique, testing, and transposing of the values and concepts in new event design projects (synthesis and evaluation).


The Case Study Event


On Friday, February 10, 2006, the Games of the XX Winter Olympiad were officially opened in Turin, Italy, with a three-hour spectacle that featured tradition, innovation, pageantry, and countless cultural icons celebrating the history of the Games and Italy’s rich contributions to theater, art, music, fashion, style, and sports heroes throughout the centuries. The program was comprised of fourteen segments and promised “Rhythm, Passion and Speed,” highlighted “all things Italian,” showcased the city of Turin and the assets of the Piedmont region, met the IOC specifications for the formal ceremonies, and created a spectacle for worldwide television coverage.


Segment 1. The Sparks of Passion

Yuri Chechi, Italy's most famous gold medal gymnast winner, swung a huge hammer onto a giant bronze anvil to the beat of mighty drums sparking three-meter high flame projections from the anvil and 52 pyrotechnic nozzles edging the stage celebrating the industrial tradition of the Piedmont region. Dozens of skateboarders and inline skaters, simulating their snow and ice counterparts, sped onto and around the stage. Hundreds of dancers in jumpsuits entered to perform hip-hop-inspired choreography that converged into the shape of a pulsating heart in front of the anvil. Performers in the recessed piazza on stage stuck arms and legs through its covering of spandex strips to execute a series of geometric patterns inspired by synchronized swimming. Eight inline skaters known as the Sparks of Passion, icons of the Ceremonies meant to symbolize the energy, passion, and speed of the Olympic athletes and the Italians, wore specially engineered helmets that spewed two-meter long flames out the back and raced through the dancers and around the stage at speeds of up to 70 kilometers per hour.


Segment 2. The Alps

Seven alphorns, representing the seven Alpine countries of Italy, France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, and Slovenia, were wheeled out from underneath the proscenium stage. Tree men, dancers with pine tree costumes, entered and created a forest around the edge of the recessed piazza as fake snow sprinkled down. Couples in cow-print costumes were highlighted with follow spots as they danced the waltz on stage while life-size fiberglass replicas of cows (from the original Cow Parade™ art project originated in Zurich, Switzerland in 1998) were spun around on wheeled pallets in between the waltzing couples. Traditional folk dancers in ethnic costume from each country performed along the perimeter pathways between the audience seating and the stage. Organizers had given cow bells to all audience members, who rang them throughout the segment, as well as white ponchos to be worn to signify snow. Performers in white jumpsuits with giant white balloons as head pieces to represent the arrival of snow entered as the folk dancers exited. With the lights washing the stage in shades of blue, performers in the recessed piazza stood up through the spandex with light wands creating snowflake images.


Segment 3. Raising of the Italian Flag

Twenty-eight Italian Olympic medalists in white outfits designed by Giorgio Armani marched to solemn drumbeats in two columns on to the stage, now lit in bright white light accented with vivid green and red spotlights, and formed a single line. Turin-born supermodel and singer Carla Bruni followed in a sparkling Armani silver gown carrying the folded Italian flag, the Tricolore. The audience was asked to stand for the entrance of the President of the International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge and the President of the Italian Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, who moved to their seats of honor in the stands. Bruni proceeded through the middle of the Olympians to present the Tricolore to a member of the Honor Guard of the Carabinieri, a military corps founded in Turin. The Tricolore was raised up the flagpole as nine-year-old Eleonora Benetti was hydraulically raised through the spandex in the center of the recessed piazza to perform a solo rendition of the Italian national anthem. The anthem refrain was sung by a full choir with the robust accompaniment of the orchestra on the proscenium stage.


Segment 4. The Winter Games

Five hundred performers in white jumpsuits and caps with lights attached at the forehead emerged from under the spandex of the recessed piazza and formed a large rectangle, washed with gold light, that undulated as the performers squatted and stood in waves. They then dispersed and moved to form two giant “X” shapes and as the stage lights changed to blue, they turned on their head lights to reveal a sparkling image of the symbol of the twentieth Olympiad. Performers dressed in black and attached in teams of six to long black plank skis marched in, cross-country style, from upstage ramps. The white-clad performers each donned a colored poncho, each poncho one of the five Olympic colors of blue, black, red, yellow, and green. The performers regrouped to form the animated figure of a giant skier, with the black-clad plank teams forming the skis in an image primarily visible to spectators in the stands and the overhead shot for television audiences. The performers moved in precision to make the giant skier appear to be cross country skiing (with smoke coming out from the face area to simulate breathing), then crouching as if downhill skiing, and then parallel to the black skis to simulate flying through the air in a ski jump. Upon “landing” the skier “stood up” and the black-clad ski performers rushed to the edge of the stage to shoot off hand-held confetti cannons to suggest the spray of snow as the skier came to a stop at the bottom of the slope. The flaming-helmeted Sparks of Passion inline skaters re-entered as the skier animation performers ran off stage.


Segment 5. The Olympic Rings

At the end of the stadium opposite to the proscenium stage three truss work circles laden with lighting instruments and supported by four large vertical truss work columns were raised to a height of 18 meters. Thirty harnessed acrobats executed Cirque-style maneuvers on the three round trusses as the circles moved up and down along the columns. One hundred dancers in red unitard costumes performed a modern ballet performance to pulsating music in front of the structure. The acrobats descended to the ground as two more truss circles rose up from the floor and the five circular frames were flipped vertically revealing the five largest and tallest Olympic Rings ever created for the Opening Ceremonies, which then erupted in pyrotechnics. The rings then lit up in the five Olympic colors (the black ring of the Olympic Rings symbol was lit with white lights to show the edges of the black circle). The entire structure of rings and columns then exploded in pyrotechnics to signify completion and the transition to the Parade of Nations.


Segment 6. The Parade of Nations

The Parade of Nations, the entrance of the athletes, is the centerpiece of the Opening Ceremonies. The Olympic Rings structure served as the archway through which the athlete delegations passed to enter the stadium. In accordance with tradition, Greece entered first as the originator of the Games, Italy entered last as the host country, and all other delegations entered in alphabetical parade order according to the spelling of the language of the host nation (e.g., Japan—Giappone before Great Britain—Gran Bretagna). The parade of approximately 2,600 athletes entered to the sounds of American disco music from the 1970s and 1980s, which helped to maintain a quick-paced tempo. The fashion house of Moschino designed the costumes of the women who carried the standards announcing each country’s delegation, which had sweeping white hoop skirts with three-dimensional mountain peaks signifying the Alps. Miss Italia 2005, Edelfa Chiara Masciotta, carried the Italian delegation’s standard and wore a special dress designed to pay tribute to Turin. Each delegation was announced in French then English as the official languages of the International Olympic Committee, and then in Italian, the language of the host country. Each delegation was lead by an athlete bearing its nation’s flag, with the flags subsequently inserted into flag pole stands along the outer perimeter of the stage area nearest the proscenium stage. The delegations marched in down the central aisle and turned left to circle the outer perimeter of the stage along the pathway between the stage and floor seating, then up a ramp onto the stage to complete the full circle and then down steps into the sunken piazza (which now had the spandex strips removed to reveal the seating for the athletes).


Segment 7. From the Renaissance to the Baroque

As soon as the athletes were seated in their assigned seats, dozens of costumed flag-wavers entered and circled the stage to perform the traditional Sbandieratori, a complex flag-waving ceremony that began in medieval Italy as a martial art and weapons drill for standard bearers. The flags corresponded to all the regions of Italy. A special troupe performed the maneuvers center stage, tossing white flags, custom-designed for the Torino Games, high in the air in a dramatic choreographed display. Trumpeters and drummers in Renaissance costumes and masks circled the perimeter. Botticelli’s painting, The Birth of Venus, was brought to life as Czech supermodel Eva Herzigová emerged from a sea shell on the proscenium stage. Costumed acrobats danced overhead rigged to trapezes suspended from the proscenium arch truss work. Performers representing Zephyr, god of the west wind, and Eurus, goddess of the east wind, floated over the athletes’ piazza on wires. Giant floating lighting balloons printed to represent the sun and the moon with acrobats suspended below were raised, lowered, and moved around the stage by handlers onstage. Large floats made to resemble Baroque gowns that featured live performers in fantastic wigs creating the women from the waist up and costumed ladies swinging on swings underneath the raised skirts of the statuesque figures moved along the outer edges of the stage. Elaborate floats of tableaus representing the intellectual pursuits of art, literature, and music, and elaborately costumed ladies in gilt carriages reminiscent of Italian director Federico Fellini were paraded around the stage pulled by liveried footmen.


Segment 8. From Futurism to the Future

The side towers and top of the proscenium arch ignited with pyrotechnics and men grinding spark generator backpacks that spewed out pyrotechnics marched up and down the side ramps of the stage to signal the transition to a celebration of Futurism. Roberto Bolle, lead dancer of the La Scala Theatre whose birthplace was in the Piedmont province that encompasses Turin, entered in a Venetian costume and mask to perform a modern ballet he choreographed. Bolle then ripped away the outer costume to reveal a surrealistic body suit and spiked-hair headdress to complete his futuristic dance performance punctuated with pyrotechnic flames shooting up around the stage perimeter. A float of a replica of Umberto Boccioni’s sculpture “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space,” which appears on an Italian 20 cent (Euro) coin, moved throughout the stage. Giant two-torsoed ballerina floats were propelled around the stage perimeter by dozens of ballerinas in toe shoes dancing on point underneath each float’s camouflage-patterned tutus. Lights went down on stage and came up on the proscenium stage where a pit crew was preparing a Ferrari Formula One race car, in homage to Turin’s auto industry (the home of Fiat). Italian driver Luca Badoer eased the red car that sported the emblems of Olympic Rings, the Torino 2006 name, and the flag of Italy onto the main stage and then sped to downstage center, revving the engine and performing a five-doughnut maneuver to create circular skid-mark patterns of rubber and causing the tires to smoke. Pyrotechnics launched along the upper perimeter of the stadium roof signaled the close of the performance.


Segment 9. The Official Welcome Speeches

As part of the formal protocol of the Ceremonies, Valentino Castellani, the President of the Torino Organizing Committee, gave a speech from a lectern situated in the center of the athlete piazza seating area welcoming the athletes and spectators to Torino, “the world capital of sports” during the Olympics. IOC President Jacques Rogge presented his welcoming remarks and told the Olympic athletes that their achievements “inspire and motivate future generations” and spoke of his hope for peace and brotherhood as the values of the Olympic Games saying, “May the Games be held in peace and in the true spirit of the Olympic truce. Show us how sport unites by overcoming political, religious and language barriers and you will show us the world we all long for.” Rogge then introduced President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi who declared the Games officially open from his place of honor in the stands.


Segment 10. Raising of the Olympic Flag

A first in Olympic history, the Olympic flag was paraded into the stadium by eight women (“with a strong civic commitment”), five representing the five continents and three as pillars of the Olympic movement. Sophia Loren, renowned Italian actress, led the procession as the patroness of the Ceremony. The others included Isabel Allende, Chilean journalist and novelist; Nawal El Moutawakel, the first African Muslim woman to win an Olympic gold medal and IOC Member from Morocco; Susan Sarandon, American actress and activist; Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and founder of the Kenyan Green Belt Movement; Manuela Di Centa, seven-time Nordic skiing gold medalist from Italy; Maria Mutola, 800-meter gold medalist runner from Mozambique; and Somaly Mam,  Cambodian human rights activist. The procession ceremoniously proceeded up onto the stage, circled its way completely around the stage to the flag podiums downstage left, and the Olympic Flag was then handed over to eight members of the Alpini, a highly decorated elite infantry corps of the Italian Army, who raised the flag while the Olympic anthem was played.


Segment 11. The Olympic Oaths

The orchestra and chorus on the proscenium stage performed a second anthem composed specifically for the Torino Games while a parade of all the nations’ flags moved to face the athletes seated in the piazza pit. Italian skier Giorgio Rocca recited the Olympic Oath on behalf of all the athletes from the podium in the center of the piazza. Fabio Bianchetti from the International Skating Union recited the oath on behalf of all judges.


Segment 12. Symbols of Peace

Twenty eight acrobats clad in white and mountain climbing gear executed a vertically choreographed show of synchronized patterns and maneuvers relying on a specially created system of nets and counterweights on the proscenium stage, culminating in the formation of a dove, the universal symbol of peace. Yoko Ono, dressed in white, read a eulogy for peace in the world. A hydraulic lift raised the downstage portion of the proscenium stage carrying Peter Gabriel, his band, and grand piano to perform “Imagine” by John Lennon with spectators swaying and waving flashlights provided by organizers.


Segment 13. The Olympic Flame

In an Olympic tradition, the Olympic torch arrived at the Ceremonies following and extensive Torch Relay and was brought into the stadium to ignite the Olympic Flame cauldron. The Olympic Torch was carried into the stadium by Italian Olympic skiing legend Alberto Tomba to pass along to a succession of Italian Olympic heroes. Tomba passed the Torch to the 1994 Italian men’s gold medal ski relay team of Silvio Fauner, Marco Albarello, Maurilio de Zolt and Giorgio Vanzetta. The Torch was then passed to 51 year old Piero Gros, Italian World Cup ski champion and Olympic gold medalist in the 1970s. Gros passed the Torch to three-time giant slalom gold medal winner Deborah Compagnoni. It was finally passed to Italian cross-country skier and ten-time Olympic medalist Stefania Belmondo who ran down through the athlete piazza and up to the main stage to ignite the Olympic Flame via a series of pyrotechnics that sped to the top of the tallest cauldron in Olympic history at 57 meters high.


Segment 14. Finale

Purportedly the largest curtain ever built opened on the proscenium stage to reveal Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti center stage under a gigantic golden chandelier wearing a floor length black opera cape embroidered with sequined Olympic rings to celebrate Italy as the birthplace of opera. Pavarotti sang his signature aria, Nessum Dorma (Let No One Sleep) from Puccini’s opera Turandot. As the massive red curtains slowly closed on an evening dedicated to all things Italian and the Sparks of Passion skated around the stage one last time, a fireworks extravaganza erupted around the upper perimeter of the stadium to signal the close of the Ceremonies. The athletes exited the stadium back through the Olympic Rings arch along a path edged with white-clad volunteers forming an arm-link fence.


The EMBOK Analysis


The Design domain of the EMBOK focuses on the artistic interpretation and expression of the goals and objectives of the event project and its experiential dimensions, and is often the area of event management that draws individuals to the occupation due to its creative opportunities. Using the Design domain of the International EMBOK Model, one may analyze the components of the Opening Ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics Games in a systematic fashion, as illustrated below using the facet of Theme Design.


Overview of Theme Design Management


The application of theme development principles and cultural iconography to communicate and integrate the purpose, message, image and branding of the event project.

Major Functions

Performance Elements

Theme Principles

·         Capture attention and create interest and involvement

·         Communicate and reinforce purpose and message

·         Establish a context and create attendee expectations

·         Integrate into a cohesive whole

Theme Development

·         Determine expectations through research and consultation

·         Identify core concepts, topics, and/or messages

·         Create multiple dimensions

·         Integrate essential characteristics of theme into a clear concept description

Cultural Iconography

·         Explore the cultural icon domains

·         Work from the familiar

·         Recognize and respect cultural and individual diversity

·         Distill the imagery


·         Use a broad spectrum of stimuli

·         Conduct brainstorming and other idea-generating exercises

·         Remove restrictions of assumptions and tradition

·         Combine ideas in new ways and make connections between seemingly unrelated ideas

Theme Integration

·         Visualize all the event elements and link them to the theme

·         Incorporate the five senses

·         Integrate branding into all aspects of the event experience

·         Verify the operational and logistical practicality


The Case Study Analysis


Major Functions


Theme Principles

·         Celebrate the history of the Games and Italy's rich contributions to theater, art, music, fashion, style, and sports heroes throughout the centuries

·         Showcase the city of Turin and the assets of the region

·         Meet IOC specifications for ceremonies

·         Create a spectacle for worldwide television coverage

Theme Development

·         Torino Games motto “Passion Lives Here”

·         Essential characteristics of “Rhythm, Passion and Speed”

·         Host objective to highlight and promote “all things Italian”

·         Portray the Olympic ideals

Cultural Iconography


·         Italian iconography

o        Film and theater; Fellini, Roberto Bolle of the La Scala Theatre

o        Art; Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus,” Umberto Boccioni's sculpture “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space”

o        Music; Renaissance trumpeters and drummers, Luciano Pavarotti, Puccini

o        Fashion; Armani, Moschino, supermodel Carla Bruni

o        History; Medieval Sbandieratori flag wavers, Renaissance and Baroque acrobats and floats

o        Sports; Olympic medalist participants, Formula One race car

·         Olympic iconography

o        Double X symbol of the twentieth Olympiad

o        Olympic rings

o        Olympic colors of blue, black, red, yellow, and green

o        Olympic torch, cauldron, and flame

o        Torino Games logo

o        Dove as the symbol of peace


·         Aerial acrobatics

·         Disco music for athlete parade

·         Dove formation with vertical choreography

·         Ferrari Formula One race car

·         Olympic Flag carried by women only

·         Olympic Flame ignition

·         Olympic Rings

·         Pavarotti Opera stage

·         Pulsing heart and giant skier choreography

·         Recessed piazza in stage for athlete seating

·         Sparks of Passion inline skaters with flaming helmets

·         Synchronized “swimmer” routines through spandex piazza cover

Theme Integration

·         Passion

o        Bronze flame-projecting anvil

o        Beating heart dance routine

o        Olympic torch entry and flame ignition

o        Pyrotechnics

·         Rhythm

o        Drums in opening segment

o        Disco music for athlete parade

o        Medieval Sbandieratori flag wavers

·         Speed

o        Sparks of Passion skaters with flaming helmets

o        Skateboarders and inline skaters

o        Giant skier formations

o        Ferrari Formula One race car

·         Peace

o        Honor Guard of the Carabinieri and the Alpini

o        Jacques Rogge speech

o        Acrobatic formation of dove

o        John Lennon’s “Imagine”

Possible Discussion Topics

·         How “all things Italian” were highlighted and promoted

·         The iconic elements for:

o        Turin in specific

o        Italy in general

o        The Alpine region

o        The Winter Olympics

o        The Olympics in general

·         Historical origins of the various cultural icons and iconic elements used

·         The design benchmarks (highest, first, largest, etc.)

©2001-2016, Julia Rutherford Silvers, CSEP. Albuquerque, NM, USA. All Rights Reserved.

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