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Veni, vidi, vici: Agorà’s audio system impresses at Sochi 2014

Italian creativity and technical ability was to the fore at this year’s Olympic and Paralympic games opening and closing ceremonies at Sochi’s Fisht Stadium.

Italian creativity and technical ability was to the fore at this year’s Olympic and Paralympic games opening and closing ceremonies at Sochi’s Fisht Stadium. An audience of around 40,000 watched 2,000 performers in the specially built arena, following the official launch by president Putin on the 7 February.

The event was not without incident, as a much-publicised technical hitch meant a snowflake ‘device’ failed to convert into an Olympic ring. The organiser poked fun at itself by purposefully highlighting the malfunction in the Closing Ceremony.

L’Aquila based Agorà, Italy’s largest audio and lighting rental firm, won the international tender to supply the impressive audio system designed by Auditoria’s Scott Willsallen for the four ceremonies. In fact, Italians filled creative as well as technical roles in Russia, including Lida Castelli, artistic director and director of the Paralympics closing ceremony (one of the few women to have held this role), Marco Balich, artistic executive producer of the Olympic closing ceremony and executive producer of the Paralympics ceremonies, and Daniele Finzi Pasca, director of the Olympics closing ceremony.

Agorà is no newcomer to Olympic events, having supplied equipment and technicians for Turin’s 2006 Winter Olympic Games. Agorà CEO Vittorio DeAmicis explains, “We shipped nine containers of equipment to Sochi, where our 35-member team, led by project manager Giulio Rovelli and crew chief and technical co-ordinator Angelo Camporese, began work on installation at the end of November, supervised by Auditoria.”

Just a few figures are sufficient to give an idea of the sheer scale of the Abruzzo company’s work: 530 L-Acoustics loudspeaker systems (including 94 SB28 subwoofers and 230 K2 variable curvature line source systems, literally just off the production line); 450 personal monitor systems; 15 DiGiCo digital audio consoles; a 24-node Optocore dual-redundant signal distribution ring, 135 L-Acoustics LA8 amps for the main rig and a 150-cabinet paging system.

As far as the actual sound reinforcement was concerned. eight signal routing nodes were flown from the stadium roof and eight more in the sub stage under the ‘field of play’ (FOP), of which two were dedicated to the stages and six to the PA system.

For the Olympics Ceremonies, 16 hangs (12 with nine K2 and four subs each and four with nine K2) were flown from the roof for the top part of the stands and on the Field of Play twenty stacked clusters (four K2 and three subs) covered the lower part of the stands. Two additional hangs (with twelve dV-DOSC and four dV-SUB) were used to boost the sonic effect of a huge locomotive that flew down the length of the FOP in one of the segment.

There was a major change to the set-up during the few days’ interval between the Olympics CC and the Paralympics OC, as the field of play had to be freed to leave space for the delegations of athletes on wheelchairs, so the entire stacked set-up was removed and added to the flown systems, increasing roof clusters to twenty. To cover the FOP, 60 L-Acoustics 8XT monitors were installed on custom stands. For the Paralympics Ceremonies, the dV-DOSC clusters for the featured ‘train’ were moved to the opposite side of the stadium, this time for sound effects accompanying the entrance of a huge icebreaker.

Although 35 monitor enclosures were used for various areas of the venue, the majority of the performers used IEM system divided into three categories. The first level was for the headline performers (approximately fifty Sennheiser EK 2000 with Ultimate Ears 900 personal monitors); the second for aerial artistes and acrobats and those in supporting roles (approximately 320 G3 bodypacks with UE 600). These were both controlled by the Agorà team, which included seven IEM technicians.

A Riedel MediorNet infrastructure, supplied and coordinated by the German intercoms giant, facilitated programming, coordination, and the execution of certain programme elements during the ceremonies: 90 discreet radio channels were established for the deployment of 1,300 radios and 1,000 headsets.

Regarding the brand-new L-Acoustics K2 systems, Camporese explained, “We tested them at Agorà’s premises and in France, and took a limited number out on events in the field, the last of which was in Rome with the Pope(!). On this project, they lived up to our expectations and L-Acoustics’ promises, and integrated perfectly with other products such the K1, which we had already used extensively. The level of precision and power output make them top-grade systems. “Installing a really interesting redundant system for such a large event was extremely instructive from an organisational and technical point of view.”

DeAmicis concludes: “The enviable understanding between our crew members even surprised other companies at Sochi. Bringing home this excellent result, Agorà confirmed its role as a truly international player.”