Unveiling the Spectacle: A Look Behind the Scenes of the European Para Championships 2023 Opening Ceremony with Backbone International and TWOFIFTYK

On August 8, the first multi-sport event in Europe started, apart from the Paralympic Games, where ten para-sports were combined: European Para Championships. The execution of this event relied on the collaboration of diverse companies and individuals, each making substantial contributions to its success. Among the key contributors were companies such as Backbone International and TWOFIFTYK, members of the production team for the opening ceremony. This article delves into the collaborative dynamics between these two entities, spotlighting insights from Daniël Zwaan, the Head of Productions at Backbone International, and Freek Cornelissen, the Art Director at TWOFIFTYK.

EUROPEAN PARA CHAMPIONSHIPS

The European Para Championships 2023 marked a milestone in the world of parasports. Apart from the Paralympic Games, this tournament was the first time ten para-sports were combined for European competitors in a single event. Backbone International was part of the core team for the European Para Championships with various companies and individuals, overseeing the event's production management. For the opening ceremony, which was a production in itself, Backbone collaborated closely with TWOFIFTYK, another integral member of the core team. 

NAVIGATING THE TECHNOLOGICAL LABYRINTH: BACKBONE'S APPROACH

"The grand stage for the opening ceremony was in the RTM stage at Ahoy Rotterdam. However, this choice was not without its challenges, as Daniël Zwaan pointed out: "Due to a tight schedule, we needed to work efficiently because the basketball tournament would start in the same hall the next day, which gave a bit of pressure for the schedule for the opening ceremony. Preparing the roof grid ahead of the ceremony allowed us to work efficiently at night, ensuring ample space for laying the sports floor."

The technical aspects of the show posed a unique set of challenges. The intricate projection squares must be meticulously aligned to create a flawless visual experience. But there was more: a custom-made video wall behind the stage added another layer of complexity to the production. Most of the audience was in electric wheelchairs, but also unusually close to the stage, which Backbone and TWOFIFTYK took into account during production. The complexity of this production was a testament to the technical expertise of the Backbone and TWOFIFTYK, and everything seamlessly came together on the big day.

CREATIVE ASPECTS

As Daniël mentioned, the show took place at the venue of the basketball tournament. TWOFIFTYK utilized the basketball court as our stage for our creative baseline. The three grandstands on the side already had to be built for the championship, which gave us the idea to use the basketball court, which let us design a setup that offers a 270-degree viewing experience. With the size of the basketball court and only using projection, TWOFIFTYK utilized this vast space to create an immersive opening ceremony in which performances seamlessly integrated with the projection, forming a cohesive whole. Additionally, TWOFIFTYK incorporated three custom-made projection screens for the back wall, serving multiple functions. These screens displayed live content and provided information throughout the show. At the same time, the structure itself was divided into three separate parts, with the central screen slightly pushed forward, facilitating the entry and exit for the performers. Thanks to the use of projection and the adaptable nature of the stage, it was a flexible field for moving around instruments and show elements, making rapid changeovers possible.

This stage design made the impression of a large fashion show runway, offering TWOFIFTYK the mobility and versatility to create different setups for various artists. These ranged from small, intimate settings for an acoustic performance to expansive setups featuring a live band, singers, dancers, and aerial performers. 

The closing part of the ceremony was the EPC anthem, where everything came together: the custom-made audio with the anthem written and performed by Raffie, custom video, and a show with the most impressive elements, including the lights, pyrotechnics, and other special effects, making sure the audience left with a truly memorable experience. 

BACKBONE X TWOFIFTYK

"The collaboration between the two powerhouses was evident in conversations with Daniël Zwaan and Freek Cornelissen, Art Director at TWOFIFTYK. Daniël explained,"The collaboration between TWOFIFTYK and Backbone was perfect. In the pre-production phase, our technical draftsmen worked closely with TWOFIFTYK on the technical drawings so we could do everything as smoothly as possible before we worked on location. Also, the conversations about what we should do for the show, the content, or what the people would see were excellent. Backbone and TWOFIFTYK came to a show where the two worlds, broadcast and live show, came together."The collaboration between the two powerhouses was evident in conversations with Daniël Zwaan and Freek Cornelissen, Art Director at TWOFIFTYK. Daniël explained, "The collaboration between TWOFIFTYK and Backbone was perfect. In the pre-production phase, our technical draftsmen worked closely with TWOFIFTYK on the technical drawings so we could do everything as smoothly as possible before we worked on location. Also, the conversations about what we should do for the show, the content, or what the people would see were excellent. Backbone and TWOFIFTYK came to a show where the two worlds, broadcast and live show, came together."

"Freek agrees with Daniël about the collaboration:"We know how to build an impressive show with a versatile stage design that lets us do anything we imagined, while Backbone found the perfect technical solutions for our ideas. The close collaboration during the months of preparation resulted in a one-of-a-kind opening ceremony with a spotless execution.""Freek agrees with Daniël about the collaboration: "We know how to build an impressive show with a versatile stage design that lets us do anything we imagined, while Backbone found the perfect technical solutions for our ideas. The close collaboration during the months of preparation resulted in a one-of-a-kind opening ceremony with a spotless execution."

The inaugural presentation of the European Para Championships emerged as a collaborative outcome, blending teamwork and innovation contributed by all participating parties and individuals.

Event Photography courtesy: European Para Championships