So, that Thomas Heatherwick – just how big are his balls? The Olympic cauldron (codenamed Betty after a colleague’s dog) was dramatic, beautiful, original (and to my eyes, the staves vertical looked a bit like a fiery Corinthian column). He was explicitly requested to use no moving parts. He had a global audience of a billion people. In his place, would you have played it a little safer? Just to add a bit of complexity, the 204 individual copper petals were brought into the stadium by each national team of athletes, then quickly attached backstage to their steel rods. No pressure then.
Things can go wrong – did you notice that a few of the count down balloons failed to go off? The cauldron failed on one of its last tests on Thursday when a rod jammed. The designer was not informed by his team – they quietly worked to fix the issue. That was pretty ballsy of them too.
So how does it feel to watch your creation at the crucial moment? He told The Guardian “On the night I was watching in silence, staring, not aware of anything around me and gripping the bars in front – ‘What’s going to happen, what’s going to happen?’ When it worked there was an outpouring of relief. It really would have been a head-in-your-hands moment if it had not happened on the night.”
I love the cauldron. But I really love the balls of the designer and those who approved and backed his ambition. One final note – The Times reports the cauldron was developed “in an incredibly sophisticated shed in Harrogate.” What man can read those words and not feel at least a slight frisson?