This weekend will see the world's largest aerostat of its kind take centre stage at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
With two days remaining before the opening ceremony, the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games has already stolen column space. Eyes have been firmly rooted to one entrant in particular. No it's not a Commonwealth member, it is in fact a helium balloon or 'aerostat' containing approximately 20,000 cubic metres of helium. The balloon will observe the international event from a lofty 30 metres above the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Chairman of the Organising Committee for the Commonwealth Games 2010, Suresh Kalamadi, MP, described, $quot;The aerostat is no ordinary balloon but a piece of technology, a piece of art.$quot; Kalamadi predicted, $quot;It will add much value to the ceremonies.$quot;
The aerostat, or 'blimp' as its is more colloquially known, sits 30 metres off the ground at the same level as the stadium roof and is set to fulfill a number of functions. Not only does it feature cameras, lights and mirrors, but spectators will be treated to a delectable feast of visual treats courtesy of an attached screen and high resolution projections.
The 80 x 40 x 12 metre device cost a reported Rs 40 crore and contains an estimated 20,000 cubic metres of helium. Viraf Sarkari, Director of Wizcraft International Entertainment, a global event management agency, said, $quot;It is the first time an aerostat will be used in the ceremonies of sporting celebrations.$quot; The Director added, $quot;The USP of this aerostat is that it is used for projection in 360˚ so every person in the stadium can view the entire effect of the aerostat.$quot;
A combined effort
In keeping with the global nature of The Games, the ‘blimp’ project was equally international, as CEO for the Organising Committee, Jarnail Singh, explained, “The fact is that no Indian company or consortium could provide us a spectacular showpiece like the one we have ordered. It is the first time in the world that such a large helium balloon will be used for a sporting event.”
The team effort was led by Ric Birch, Chief International Advisor for the aerostat project, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies. Furthermore, as Singh explained, Birch was also responsible for electing foreign consultants. Meanwhile, Italian events company, K Events, project managed the installation, while the balloon itself was manufactured by UK firm, Lindstrand Technologies, and tested at a Liverpool base before being transported to Delhi. Similarly, another British company, Stage One, was also contracted to equip the balloon with rigging.
Despite planning, the project was not without dilemmas. In particular, the Stadium’s overall completion was jeopardised while engineers struggled to install an anchoring mechanism for the helium balloon. Director General B K Chugh of the Central Public Works Department in New Delhi, explained at the time, “Since it is filled with helium, we will need an extremely strong anchoring mechanism to make sure that the aerostat remains floating close to the stadium instead of flying away.”
Similarly, plans to raise 48 drummers on the device were shelved after safety concerns about wind were raised. A more in-depth look at the installation reveals that it is kept afloat by two separate inner balloons, begging the question, ‘What if one deflates?’ However, Bharat Bala, Creative Committee Head for ceremonies reassured spectators, “One portion getting deflated or spoilt does not matter, as the ceremonies would go on as planned. Adjustments have been made accordingly.” Indeed, though the obstacles were overcome, they prompted Cabinet Secretary K M Chanrashekhar to urge the Organising Committee for an alternative plan in case there were difficulties keeping the object afloat inside the stadium.
The big industry question
For a sector that has witnessed fluctuations in the price of helium, the pivotal question surrounds the supplier’s identity.
Indeed, the supply contract itself is embargoed. However, gasworld has secured exclusive comments from the firm, which will be revealed online in October. During this gasworld promises to tackle, among other things, the searing questions as to whether this will effect global demand.
Up, up and away
Following a detailed weather forecast, a final decision to commit to the aerostat is expected later today. All being well, officials fully expect the world’s first sporting aerostat of its kind to steal the show on Sunday 3rd October.
Requests for the device post The Games have already been coming in. In particular, Delhi Chief Secretary, Rakesh Mehta, seemed keen on Bharat Bala’s idea: “I have suggested that the aerostat be made a landmark in Delhi, like the Millennium Wheel in London.”
This event marks the first Commonwealth Games in India, and one of the few to have taken place across Asia. The event is scheduled from 3rd – 14th October. More information can be found at the official Delhi Commonwealth Games website at: