The 2022 Commonwealth Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies took place at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium in August – celebrating the rich history, culture and identity of the city and the West Midlands, Unusual Rigging played its part as the contracted rigging supplier.
Working for Gary Beestone, Unusual’s job was to provide all the rigging and install all the lighting for the spectacles. Sam Carter, Unusual’s lead rigger on the project explained: “It’s been a couple of months now since the opening ceremony and the feedback we’ve had ever since has been unreal. We had our work cut out – it was a mammoth event with a modest budget, but the result was two fantastic ceremonies.”
Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium is a relatively new venue, with the west stand just recently built and the north and south stands set up as temporary structures. Big towers were erected by ESG, with the Unusual team installing video screens, supports for lighting, and hanging all speakers on wires.
“We were essentially responsible for all the duties that you’d imagine production riggers could handle – all the lighting, PA and video – basically, we suspended everything that needed hanging and took on the role of problem solvers in that area too,” added Carter.
As can be expected with an event of this scale, the challenges were many – from tight schedules (“We had six weeks to get everything done,” said Carter), to making the venue suitable for the ceremonies.
“We took an initial couple of weeks to carry out some capital works to the venue. This involved drilling holes in the roof and making penetrations to allow us to hang things,” explained Carter. “One of the stands at Alexander Stadium is over 20 years old and not set up for big stadium shows. Unusual installed walkways in the roof voids–making itmore appropriate for a big show. The infrastructure we installed allowed people to walk safely within the roof which was absolutely vital.”
The second phase was to install the entire rigging infrastructure. Unusual also built the PA sheds hanging off the sides of the towers. With a team of six riggers regularly on site for the first six weeks, Unusual then had a standby crew for a few weeks during the rehearsal period, ensuring their experienced problem solvers were on site – to deal with any 11th hour issues.
Following the opening ceremony, Unusual then had just 48 hours to turn the venue back into an athletics track. “All the floor protection had to be removed, and the speakers had to be changed in order to be more suitable for athletic events. We also had to put in fall arrest safety systems for the crew responsible for dismantling the ‘wedding cake’,” continued Carter.
Unusual also installed cameras on the lighting tower for broadcasts, fabricated brackets and provided all the rigging infrastructure for Cam Cat. “After the athletics, we were on standby again –this time climbing towers to carry out a fault finding exercise on the cameras (because the camera men weren’t too keen on heights),” Carter joked.
The team was granted another 48 hour turnaround to prepare for the Closing ceremony; more specific lighting was needed for the show and the venue, once again, had to be transformed back into a performance space.
Load out took just seven days with Alexander Stadium now completely unrecognisable as the location that hosted such an amazing event. “Since London 2012 our work on major sporting events has continued to grow. We are thrilled to have the Commonwealth Games added to our portfolio, allowing us to demonstrate our experience and ability to rig events that have the eyes of the world on them,” concluded Carter.