Gold Coast 2018: The inspiration behind the Opening Ceremony

Ceremonies have taken GC2018 Project and Artistic Director David Zolkwer to all parts of the world, but no city has affected him quite like his experience here on the Gold Coast, setting the scene for Opening and Closing spectaculars with a unique difference.

Zolkwer has been creating ceremonies that celebrate the places and the people that make them extraordinary for two decades and tonight the world is set for a show like no other.

He has worked on the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, as well as the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and he was the Creative Director for the Celebration Sites for The Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton too.

You’d think he’d have seen it all, but living and working on the Gold Coast has been different for Zolkwer.

He’s felt at home.

“Although I’ve done a good number of shows and ceremonies in the past, it’s always been a sense of I’m visiting, I’m there to do a job,” Zolkwer told

“I think this is the first time I felt like I was actually living here, because the Gold Coast demands that you live here.”

When planning for the ceremonies started in early 2016, Zolkwer, along with a team of local creative collaborators, travelled all over the state, meeting groups and communities to get a feel for what it meant to be a Gold Coaster, Queenslander and an Australian.

According to Zolkwer, it’s an important part of designing a ceremony that will embody the spirit, culture, attitudes and outlook of a place.

But the Gold Coast was different.

“[With a ceremony] the starting point might be, ‘we’re coming to the Gold Coast so we’ll tell stories about the Gold Coast and it will all be about surfing and the hinterland,’” he explained.

“Actually, the Gold Coast is uniquely qualified to not play the usual ceremonies game, with looking inwards and backwards.

“It’s a fantastic place to look forwards and outwards.

Instead of inviting the world into the Gold Coast to tell the world how great we are, actually, we can invite the world into the Gold Coast to share and celebrate and connect with the rest of the world.

“The attitude and the outlook will be Gold Coast-ian and Queensland-ish and Australian, Aussie-fied. But it doesn’t mean it can’t be about all of us.

“And often despite their outward manifestation, ceremonies are actually about different we are, because they’re perceived as a means of showcasing the host city and telling everyone how great they are, and all the things they’ve achieved.

“And all that’s doing is saying, so we’re not like you. Here we are in a great place to connect and talk about what we share, not what differentiates us.”

It was the unique cultural and geographical landscape that Zolkwer found most surprising when he first moved to the Gold Coast with this family.

He’s described the city and it

s contrasting beaches, suburbs and geography as a ‘community of communities’, which has in part, inspired an eclectic and inclusive approach.

“You can cross a road and you’re in a new place. It’s Currumbin town, it’s Burleigh town and it’s Southport town and each place along a relatively small strip is remarkably different. It’s really interesting,” he said.

Throughout the cast audition process, Zolkwer saw the passion of the Gold Coast in force, with thousands auditioning.

He speaks with the same passion now, about the city he’s come to call home.

“We have a cast of some thousands and they’ve been coming to auditions with an energy and sunshine that I’ve never encountered before.

“It’s a leap of faith because they don’t know what they’re in for, but there’s something about them.

“First of all, the respect they deserve because they are going to dance with a bunch of strangers and do something in front of a billion people in Carrara Stadium.

“It’s extraordinary.”

For the 4,000 volunteer performers, tonight at Carrara Stadium will undoubtedly be a once-in-a-lifetime event.

But Zolkwer’s experiences have taught him that the show is just one small part of the legacy.

“So much of the legacy is about the journey rather than the arrival,” he said.

“The two and a half hours of the Opening Ceremony is a very small part of where legacy comes from.

“We’re not here to do the ceremonies to the people who are here on the Gold Coast. We are here to create something together.”

By Fiona Self,

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