Event producers gave their thoughts on the opening ceremony's use of augmented reality, drones, projection mapping, and more.
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA The opening ceremony of the 23rd Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, took place February 9, delivering a technology-heavy spectacle mixed with momentous political moments to the 35,000-seat Olympic Stadium and 27.8 million viewers on NBC. The “Peace in Motion”-theme ceremony, which was helmed by executive creative director Song Seung-whan, took viewers on a journey through South Korea’s past, present, and future through the eyes of five children—representing the five elements of fire, water, wood, metal, and earth—in a winter fantasy atmosphere.
Along with a number of song and dance performances that viewers come to expect from an Olympic opening ceremony, highlights included colorful projection-mapping technology on the stadium floor, augmented-reality segments for viewers at home, 1,270 people creating the image of a dove with LED candles during a performance of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” and Intel’s Guinness World Record-breaking light show that incorporated more than 1,200 drones.
Outside of the production itself, the event saw a unified North and South Korea walk together to culminate the parade of athletes as well as the presence of Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister, in the audience. Here’s what event producers liked and disliked about the kickoff to the Pyeongchang Olympics.
“Overall, I think the opening ceremony hit the mark on what was expected on this global stage. Interestingly, my highlight is also one of my critiques. I was thrilled that they finally integrated augmented reality into a broadcast for the masses. I found the AR layer of the Korean star map rising above particularly stunning and appropriate. However, it’s my opinion that they could and should have gone much bigger for this Olympic audience—and with this Olympic budget. Taking notes from eSports championship broadcasts and knowing the future of gaming and remote spectatorship has already advanced eons past the subtle graphical treatments here, I was disappointed and saw a significant missed opportunity where they could have authentically propelled Korea forward in the conversation about the future of technology.
The use of AR with the children doodling in a moonlit boat toward the night sky led to my favorite storyline of the program. These children, who were the common thread throughout much of the opening ceremony’s storyline, passed through what I’ll call ‘transitional portals’ into a view of their tech-driven future selves. While I found this theme ironic, as Korea has the second highest number of tech rehab facilities in the world, the sentiment and creative expression of this vision was inspiring, modern, and elegant.
I had been waiting since December to see how the Intel drones would show up during the ‘live’ program after hitting the Guinness World Records that month in prep for the games. I later learned that due to last-minute ‘impromptu logistical changes,’ they never got off the ground. Previously shot footage was used. While the footage was breathtaking—mind-blowing to be fair—it was a disappointment to learn that as an industry, we aren’t quite yet there with the reliability of these Shooting Star drones lighting up the sky above our events.”
Letter grade: B+
Salkin is the senior vice president of innovation at Momentum Worldwide, a global brand experience agency with headquarters in New York. Clients have included American Express, Verizon, Coca-Cola, and Mondelez.