February 10, 2006 – The iconic Yarra River will be the ‘pathway’ leading 71 Commonwealth nations to the Opening Ceremony of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games on March 15. Commonwealth Games Minister Justin Madden, Lord Mayor John So and Games organisers today revealed that for the first time in Commonwealth Games history, the Opening Ceremony will flow out of the stadium and onto the streets of the host city, Melbourne. They unveiled one of the key elements of the River Event – 72 water creatures representing the 71 nations of the Commonwealth (Australia will have two creatures). The creatures will be anchored to 36 pontoons along the Yarra River between the Princes and Swan Street bridges by the end of February.
Ceremonies executive producer Andrew Walsh said each creature had significance to the region it represents, been verified by the Commonwealth Games Federation representatives of each nation, and authenticated by the Melbourne Museum’s Senior Curator of Ichthyology (fish expert) Dr Martin Gomon. Mr Madden said the Yarra spectacular would run concurrently with the Ceremony inside the Melbourne Cricket Ground. “For the first time, we are going to extend the Ceremony beyond the borders of the stadium,” Mr Madden said. “And without giving too much away, colour, light and sound will literally spill out across the city. “Imagine more than 80,000 spectators inside the MCG, thousands lining the banks of the Yarra River and thousands more at Live Sites across the city – all intimately involved for the very first time in a Games Opening Ceremony.” Lord Mayor John So said the River Event would be Melbourne’s biggest art installation ever. “Melburnians love the Yarra, and we look forward to showing off our waterfront city to a global television audience of more than 1.5 billion,” Mr So said.
“Whether we’re within the MCG, on the banks of the Yarra or at a Live Site in the city, March 15 will live long in our memories.” Games Chairman Ron Walker said the water creatures all had significance to the region they represented – whether they were edible fish, native to that region or of cultural importance. “These water creatures give the public a glimpse into what is going to be the most fantastic Opening Ceremony ever staged,” Mr Walker said. “Melbourne is one of the few cities in the world with a meandering river that is so picturesque connecting to a skyline of city. The River Event will bring the Yarra to life like it’s never been seen before. “And it will only be paralleled by the breathtaking Ceremony we have planned for inside the MCG. A small number of tickets are still available for the Opening Ceremony, but you’ll need to get in fast.” River Event creative director Keith Tucker said all 72 creatures had been designed and built in Melbourne by design studio Mothers Art, headed by Ian Bracegirdle. “A team of more than 30 designers, artists and fabricators have been working on this element of the project for almost a year since the initial concept in March 2005,” Mr Tucker said. “The water creatures can be animated with over 360 high-tech moving lights, and 180 sprays and plumes of water – making an illuminated fountain spanning more than 800m down the centre of the river. “The backing panels have been designed to give a wet, jewel-like appearance while providing a background to the various creatures.” The best vantage points to view the Opening Ceremony celebrations will be on the South side of the river. Space along the banks will be limited, so spectators are encouraged to get there early.
There will also be a number of Live Sites across the city. And for those who miss out on March 15 – or who want to witness the magic again – an abridged version of the show will be repeated nightly for 10 minutes every hour from 8pm. The last show is at 11pm. The Australian Government is proudly providing $50 million to fund the Opening and Closing Ceremonies to help recruit, train and deliver the talent needed to provide the creative face of the Games. The Presenting Partner of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games Ceremonies Program is the National Australia Bank. For further information please contact: