The Sound and Light Olympics were held in Sydney’s Darling Harbour in February (2008).
It's a conference called ENTECH. Short for Entertainment Technology.
Every two years every major company brings out its shiny lights and seductive knobs to showcase them to venues and companies.
It really is a bloke’s world. You could see them drooling.
Women with impossibly small waistlines and ample cleavage parade around the exhibition centre to entice visitors to their stand.
There is so much jargon spoken they could be speaking in Russian,
But do Sound, Lights and Technology matter?
One of the highlights was a debate put on by the International Special Events Society (ISES)
The topic: “Technology is the most essential component of a great event.”
Andrew Walsh of Accolade Event Management was one of the speakers for the negative.
He was Executive Producer of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the Athens Olympics and more recently the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.
He can make a tram fly but in the debate threw a spanner in the works of those who love special effects.
Here is his winning arguement.
“Creative vision is at the core of a truly great event. Let me for a moment explore with you what we all do in the events industry. We gather people together to celebrate, to mark great occasions, to motivate and to communicate.
“We are only successful in these endeavors if we touch the humanity of our audience, the hair on the back of the neck test if you like. We are in the business of human emotions and at the most basic level we engage in a singular encounter and scale up our projects to the largest most complex shows on earth.
“But at the core we talk to each and every member of our audiences, one on one, appealing to the drivers that solicit a response, from elation, to fear, to empathy ... the manipulation and understanding of these triggers is the magic we weave, technology is a mere tool in the realisation of that magic.
“How many times have you been to a show that was technically brilliant but without soul; how many times have you left the theatre whistling the set and not the songs? …… no emotion, no inspiration, no narrative, nothing human.
“So in spite of what our esteemed technocrats on the other side propose, without the human this is all just a big room full of nuts and bolts.
“Without the human all this stuff is worthless; without the emotional response of our audiences, my friends, we are all out of business.
“Our shared humanity is built around ritual, the rights of passage, birth, marriage, death. The worship of idols, gods and cricketers.
“It is from these cerebrations that our modern rituals are all derived, a structure that hasn’t changed all that much over the ages.
“Lets look at some events at the extremes ……
“Loy Krathong, the Thai moon festival.
“The simplicity of placing a candle in a floating lantern to be released into a river.
The act of a child making a simple boat and placing in it a candle is I concede a very small piece of technology. However it is an act of devotion and at the same time a celebration of humanity - the articulation of ancestral respect and of the dreams and aspirations of a people.
“Then one candle becomes two, becomes two thousand, becomes two million and presto you have a large scale event, all derived from a single, simple, human act.
“I hope you remember the head rising from under the lake that filled the stadium, a Cycladic image that then divided to reveal a Kuros and then the classical Greek image of man, sculpture symbolic of the ages of man and how we see ourselves. It was then and remains the most technologically sophisticated, and, may I say, daring stadium stunt ever attempted and achieved.
“However for me at least the most emotional moment in that vast production was a single pregnant woman and a thousand others standing in a lake of water …as we revealed the DNA helix.
“The symbol of what makes us human, what makes as all the same and at the same time all different.
“DNA expressed in the simplest of forms, an image projected on a waterscreen, but it was the idea, the desire to express, the evolution of the narrative, that made this moment so special, not the phalanxes of technology just the expression of the human spirit.
“So esteemed comrades, have you ever heard ‘Nessun Dorma’? Sung well it is rightfully one of the most moving arias of the operatic repertoire, best heard technology free.
“Finally, let me say that “Every Dogma Has Its Day” … this techno dogma has well and truly had its day, for without the vision and creative enterprise there is nothing of any substance.”

May / June 2008