The Olympic flame is the symbol of any Games and keeping it alight requires enormous technical skill and knowledge.
For the London 2012 Games, the Olympic flame is actually made up of 204 smaller flames – each representing a nation taking part – and is different to any other seen before.
Creating it was a technical challenge that required experts from South Australia’s FCT Flames to draw on all of the experience learnt from providing the cauldron and torches for the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Games.
Constantino Manias, Managing Director of FCT Flames, said: 'The actual concept of the London cauldron is quite different to anything that we've worked with before where normally there is a cauldron that comes out of the ground or appears from behind some reveal. The London cauldron concept was quite different. It's actually created out of almost nothing.
'There are 204 small flames, each representing a nation that's competing in the Games, they all merge together to form one flame which is the Spirit of the Games. It symbolises all the nations coming together as one,' he said.
But creating that effect was a unique technical problem. 'The challenge for that was to make the individual flames as low key as possible which meant that all the equipment associated with each individual flame needed to be as small as possible,' said Mr Manias.
Each of the 204 burner stems carrying the individual flames in the cauldron had to be as thin as possible, yet large enough to incorporate the electrical wiring, the gas supply, and a flame detector. The effect was to create a unique Olympic flame that did not look like a cauldron but a merging of 204 individual flames into one.
'We spent quite a lot of time researching what sort of burner and what sort of flame shape was needed and how the air flow around this would occur to produce the effect that was wanted by the artist,' said Mr Manias.
Safety was also a major concern. 'Flames are always beautiful things, they're live things but they're also dangerous things. One of the prime considerations is safety. In that vein we do a number of modelling exercises to determine how hot things will get to ensure that the heat doesn't affect anything that can cause damage or harm to people,' he said.
It is a high pressure job. The Olympic flame is the most watched flame in the world and nobody wants to see it go out. 'It is extremely high profile. The flames are really a core part of the Olympic Games, they encompass the Olympic spirit. The flame comes all the way from Olympia in Greece and it's lit by the sun's rays and the spirit of that is carried through the torch and eventually lights the cauldron at the main stadium and the images of it last beyond the Games themselves.
'For a small company like us in Australia to be involved in so many of these is really exciting. Every one of these games is unique. There are different artistic concepts and different degrees of research needed to deliver those concepts. They are exciting projects and it really is fantastic to be involved,' said Mr Manias.
'We do claim that we produce the most watched manmade flames in history. There will be around four billion people watching the opening ceremony of the London Olympics and every one of them will be watching the lighting of the cauldron, it's the climax of the evening.'
The expertise of Australian firms such as FCT Flames will be showcased to global decision makers at a special event in London during the Games, during which a free app detailing the who's who of the Australian major sporting event industry, Track Record will be launched. The event will be held under the banner of Australia Unlimited, the nation brand which highlights Australia's creativity, innovation and sophistication.
A special edition of the Australia Unlimited iPad magazine app celebrating Australian contribution to the London Olympics will be published on the day of the Opening Ceremony. It will feature stories of major Australian sporting event specialists such as Populous who have designed the London Olympic Stadium and Di Henry who is managing the London 2012 celebrations for the Greater London Authority among others.
The Australia Unlimited iPad app is a free monthly magazine available for download from the App store. It tells the story of contemporary Australia through the achievements of its people at home and abroad. For more information on Australia's contribution to the London Olympics, download the app or visit www.australiaunlimited.com
Media contact: Samantha Mattila Tel: +61 2 9390 2388 Mob: +61 434 567 673
For further news and information from the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) visit www.austrade.gov.au//mediacentre
Image by of London 2012 Olympic Cauldron by Thomas Heatherwick