California-based WET makes the waters dance at Sochi
February 21, 2014
At the center of the Sochi games Medals Plaza, the "The Waters of the Olympic Park" fountain forms a backdrop for the medals awards and is part of the opening and closing ceremonies. Created by California design firm WET, the fountain features a basin that measures 75.3 meters (247 feet) in diameter and holds about 700,000 gallons (2.65 million L) of water. For the centerpiece performance, hundreds of air-powered jets launch vertical columns of water up to 70 meters (230 feet) high to form the five Olympic rings in vivid color – but this is only part of the show.
For its other displays, the Sochi fountain uses an array of patented nozzles and jet systems to animate choreographed combinations of water, fog and lights set to music. Coordinated and multi-colored columns of water, produced by more than 250 nozzles and over a thousand lights, sweep, jump and dance.
As part of the Olympic celebration of Russian culture, the WET choreographers programmed performances to pieces by Russian composers Tchaikovsky, Khachaturian, Shostakovich and Glinka. But there is also a little pop thrown in, with grooves by the likes of Michael Jackson making the water do everything but moon walk. In addition to the lights used to illuminate vertical sprays, one thousand StrobeStar lights were set into the basin of the fountain to create the effect of an "underwater night sky."
Bright lights and robotics
Though somewhat overshadowed by the cauldron itself, the fountain was also designed to interact with the massive fireworks displays as part of the opening and closing ceremonies. However, the designers at WET created their own "liquid fireworks" effects by submerging theatrical stage lights, which they adapted to make what they say are the brightest colored LED lights in the world. Motion-controlled, rotating robotic nozzles are key to the variation in movement and effect. These are used to create the sweeping motions, arches and "pirouettes" of the water spray.
With post-games use in mind, the designers added another ring of jets that will help to produce the form of "a universal pyramid" when the Sochi site is used for future events.
Fountains around the world
Established in 1983 by Mark Fuller, who previously worked as a Walt Disney Imagineer, WET has since made its name with spectacular projects around the world, such as the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel and other resorts in Las Vegas, the renovated "Prometheus Fountain" at Rockefeller Center in New York, the "Performance Lake" at the Wynn Resort in Macau, and further productions in Europe, China and India.
WET also has previous Olympics experience, having designed the cauldron for the 2002 games in Salt Lake City. However, its most audacious project to date has to be the creation of the world’s largest performing fountain in Dubai. Here, water jets reach 137 meters (450 feet) in height, and there are 6,600 underwater lights, which the designers claim can be seen from 200 miles (322 km) away in space.
The Sochi fountain can be seen in action in the video below.