Design All about the Olympic cauldron designed by Nendo
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All about the Olympic cauldron designed by Nendo

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Giulia Guido
braciere olimpico Nendo

Five days ago at lunchtime (night time in Japan) the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games took place. Despite the empty stands of the Tokyo National Stadium, the event managed to captivate the audience at home with a series of performances that celebrated Japan.
From drones in the sky forming the five circles to dancers putting on pictograms of all the sports, to Naomi Osaka parading as the last torchbearer. Every little detail has been designed to pay homage to the host country, and one in particular (which is anything but small) stands out: the Olympic cauldron

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For the 35th edition of the Modern Olympics, the creative director of the opening and closing ceremonies Mansai Nomura wanted a cauldron based on the concept “All gather under the Sun, all are equal, and all receive energy”, and to do this the work was commissioned from the Japanese design studio par excellence: Nendo

Nendo’s founder, Oki Sato, worked on no less than 85 drafts before arriving at the final result, which combines a clean, minimalist form – an essential feature of all the studio’s work – with cutting-edge technology. 

Right from the start, the idea was to create a spherical cauldron, reminiscent of the sun, which at a certain point would open up to reveal the fire inside, an image similar to the blossoming of a flower, a symbol of rebirth and new life. 

The objective was achieved by actually creating a structure composed of two interlocking spheres, one upper and one lower, each in turn formed by 5 panels representing the Olympic rings. 

The diameter of the open cauldron is 3.5 metres, while its total weight is 7.2 tonnes, with each panel individually weighing 40 kilos. The panels are made by cutting sheets of aluminium approximately 10 mm thick, curving and milling them. The outside has been covered with a layer of heat-resistant paint, while the inside is covered with some mirrored panels that also serve to hide the drive mechanism, which has been designed to be waterproof, fireproof and heat-resistant. 

For the first time in the history of the Olympics, the flame is not fuelled by propane, but by using hydrogen – which does not produce greenhouse gas emissions – and sodium carbonate, which gives the typical yellow-orange colour. By directing the aqueous solution towards the burner it was possible to create a perfect flame, lower on the outside and higher in the middle. 

The Olympic cauldron designed by Nendo will burn until 8 August, when the closing ceremony will take place and the fire will begin its journey to Paris. 

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Written by Giulia Guido
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