The biggest ever event staged was masterminded by a unique blend of east and west talents responsible for the creation of a technical and human tour de force that has set the standard for opening ceremonies for some time to come.
The globe is a powerful symbol of the unity of mankind. However, used on its own, a globe is banal, overworked and meaningless. For the finale of the Opening Ceremony, Zhang Yimou wanted to find a way of expressing the motto of the 2008 Olympics - One World, One Dream - by uniting an image of the globe with an image of aspiration. At a practical level, he also needed to find a way of making a very large sphere appear and vanish in the middle of the stadium. For visual reasons the sphere needed to be at least 18m in diameter. For practical reasons it needed to pack into a chamber beneath the stadium floor that was only 5m high. The final proposal for the Dream Sphere included an athletic artistic performance that would engage acrobats with the sphere and push them to their limits.
The sphere was made up from nine latitudinal rings, with a performance position for a group of singers at the North Pole. The rings were structural trusses that functioned as running and rigging tracks for up to 60 performers who could run around them, always with their feet pointing inwards, towards the centre of the globe. The rigging was arranged to allow the performers to run, to leap, to turn summersaults and, at the lower latitudes, to fly around the sphere upside down. The rings were also designed so that they would pack down into a space only 5m high for storage in the lift chamber beneath the stadium. The sphere was lifted by a telescoping mast over 40m tall that placed the North Pole over 24m above the stadium floor.
Two full size spheres were built. The first sphere was mounted on a static tower and was used to refine the geometry of the performer rigging and to train the performers for the show. The second sphere was installed on the telescoping mast mounted in the lift pit in the stadium. The installation was complete in April 2008. The sphere was used for technical and performer rehearsals for four months. It was removed from the stadium immediately after the Opening Ceremony on 8 August 2008.