FCT Flames specialises in the design, manufacture, and operation of spectacular flame effects for ceremonial and high-profile sporting events, including the Olympic Games. Billions of people around the world have seen their work, making their man-made flame effects the most watched in history.
The Sydney Olympic torches? FCT Flames.
The Olympic Rings of Fire at the Athens Olympics? FCT Flames.
The Rio Olympic Games Opening Ceremony cauldron? FCT Flames.
No other company has the patented and proven technologies that FCT Flames has, and it is difficult to imagine another combustion specialist having the same level of experience in consistently delivering inspiring flame experiences for audiences across the world.
FCT Flames’ first major project was the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, where they were involved in the burner design of those iconic relay torches and supplying the cauldron lit by Cathy Freeman… Since then, FCT has gone on to supply flame effects to most Summer Olympic Games, as well as supplying to the Winter Olympics, Youth Olympics, Asian Games, Pan American Games, European Games, South-East Asian Games, Central American and Caribbean Games, Universiade, and Pan Arab Games, among others.
The company also creates decorative flames for cultural and entertainment events, such as arts festivals, operas, and community spaces. The company’s flame technologies can be designed to suit the needs of the client, whether it be for a temporary occasion or permanent installation, such as an eternal or remembrance flame.
With a reputation for being able to take an artistic vision and cleverly engineer the details that will turn the dream into reality, innovation is clearly part of the FCT Flames ethos. However, it is no surprise that safety and reliability are also qualities that matter in the high-stakes world of live events, where just one second can make a world of difference.
The flame needs to ignite on time. The flame needs to be safe. The flame needs to be able to withstand high winds and unpredictable weather. The flame needs to meet environmental criteria regarding fuel usage and emissions reduction. There are large audiences, and the events are almost always recorded, so it is crucial that everything run smoothly.
Yet the projects are often complex. The spectacle needs to be exciting for audiences, and with this often comes an element of danger. It is the role of FCT Flames to not only design an aesthetically pleasing flame, but to also ensure that it is technically sound, can be reliably operated, and is safe for all stakeholders.
Striking the balance between these elements is not always easy, but the results are often incredible.
The ‘Olympic Rings of Fire’ effect at the Olympic Games in 2004 is one such example. Widely acknowledged to be a highlight of the opening ceremony, which was watched live by 4.5 billion people, fire was used to illustrate the Rings in the middle of a body of water. Approximately 50MW of natural gas was released in a short period of time to fully ignite the rings, and then the water would be drained for use during the competition, increasing the technical complexity of the design.
“A key aspect to ensuring complete reliability was recognizing the importance of flame ignition systems, and specifically adapting them to the unique project. The control system design also considered many contingencies to eliminate possible failures.” David Retallack, CEO, FCT Flames.
Veterans at delivering while the world is watching, the FCT team were able to ensure the project was successful.
“Everything you promised was delivered when and how you told us it would be. The Rings are an enduring and iconic image, which will be around for some time to come; they are a credit to your company.” Adam Wildi, Senior Technical Director, Athens 2004 Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
Another complex project was the ‘Eclipse’ flame effect for the 1st European Games in Baku, where the design called for a flame to radiate out from a thin disc representing an eclipse of the sun. The burner equipment needed to be integrated into the disc structure while keeping weight to a minimum, because the disc would rotate in relation to its supports while operating at a high elevation in the stadium.
There are inherent risks associated with a burning, moving and rotating object, and so FCT needed to take steps to mitigate this. After intensive R&D, and with the aid of an air curtain located either side of the burners, FCT was able to create radiating flames of the required length and colour to meet the creative intent.
“The shows were created in a very short time frame, were very ambitious, and both Ceremonies were delivered flawlessly. This is a credit to the entire team.” Nick Eltis, Senior Technical Director, Baku 2015 Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
These are just two examples where FCT Flames has successfully bridged the gap between design, engineering, and safety. Most recently, FCT Flames commissioned two bespoke 8m high torches which featured in the FIFA World Cup Opening Ceremony at the Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar in 2022.
So, what’s next? Well, it is safe to say that FCT Flames continues to work on creating innovative flame effects to inspire, surprise, and delight audiences around the world. Watch this space.