The Gearhouse Group of companies recently took charge of all technical requirements ahead of the 63rd FIFA Congress hosted in the Swami Vivekananda International Convention Centre (SVICC) in Mauritius. The opening was held on 30 May and the congress took place on 31 May, and with Gearhouse’s reputation as a good and reliable service provider, the Group was naturally the first choice for Executive Producer and Creative Director David Bloch to partner with, in executing the Opening Ceremony. 

Originally, Pieter Joubert (Technical Director – Opening Ceremony) was briefed to advise on the technical and set aspects of the Opening Ceremony only, but it soon became apparent that the actual Congress would require extensive support as well, due to the limited resources available on the island. As both the opening and the congress were to take place on the same stage, in the same venue, with only 12 hours and a rehearsal in between, this became quite a challenge. 

It was a lengthy planning process between David Bloch, Zurich based Events Company Rufener Events represented by Project Director Lisa Tschanz and the Gearhouse team. Together they pulled the event together successfully with planning commencing as early as September and Joubert joining the second series of site inspections in October.

Gearhouse and Sets, Drapes, Screens (SDS) were appointed as service providers, while all set designs were produced by Bob Klenk of OceanSalt Set Design.

The result was an island – themed look and feel, complete with palm trees and a volcano, utilising a panoramic screen for background visuals. The Opening Ceremony was inspired by the creation of the island itself and specifically the 5 elements; Water, Earth, Wind, Fire and Air.

The set alone required 6 x 40 ft containers for transportation to the island.

All technical specifications were managed by Bullitt Productions, headed by Marco Gutensperger. Gearhouse SA supplied all lighting, rigging, audio, generators and power infrastructure, as well as content editing of the Opening Ceremony visuals. Projectors were supplied by PRG, Switzerland.

For the Congress setup; the room was completely turned around to accommodate 2500 delegates seated schoolroom style plus 32 committee members seated at custom built desks. A variety of Gearhouse companies were involved in the entire planning and execution of the congress:

  • Sets, Drapes, Screens was led by Allan Greve as Project Manager. 
  • Gearhouse was led by Kenneth Mkefa as Project Manager.
  • The overall production was led by Pieter Joubert as Technical Director (Opening) and Kim Akester as Project Manager.
  • Front of House Engineer was Jaco De Wit with Llewellyn Reineke as Monitor Engineer.
  • Tim Dunn was Lighting Designer for the event. 
  • Ian Holmes was in charge of all power and generators.

With many obstacles to overcome along the road in making this event a success, the main challenge was to fulfil the requirement of organising a show-styled opening ceremony which could then turn around for a congress within 12 hours. Both Lighting and Audio rigs had to be designed to service all technical aspects of both these very different events without any changes between events. This was the first time that FIFA had tried to accomplish something like this, and to do so on a small island like Mauritius was no small feat. Shipping most of the equipment from South Africa, part by air and part by sea in containers, without leaving anything behind and knowing that there were very limited resources on the island to accommodate changes, took a serious amount of planning. Working with local crew and companies to accomplish this event within strict deadlines was just one of the many challenges along the way.

The set was all pre manufactured in South Africa by Sets, Drapes, Screens from designs by Ocean Salt, and needed to be fully assembled in three days. Transforming the set after the Opening to suit the congress required crucial planning at the manufacturing stage, but thanks to intelligent thinking from SDS, the transformation was made easier by a 24m x 4m wide screen that was removed after the opening to reveal another screen of the same size, built into the proscenium at a different position, which set the stage for the congress. 

“Having the group of Gearhouse companies involved always make your life easier. They have the knowledge of doing big events abroad and the infrastructure to manage these types of events successfully,” comments Project Manager Pieter Joubert. “Of course, for the client, having single-source access to all disciplines is the key to a stress free experience. That is truly the advantage of contracting this group.”

Story by Gearhouse SA, Photo P Joubert

Jun 24, 2013

The Gearhouse Group of Companies