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Jack Morton lights up Melbourne for Commonwealth Games

Renowned spectacle producer Jack Morton Worldwide set Melbourne, Australia, ablaze last week with its production of the opening of the XVIII Commonwealth Games. New York-based Jack Morton produced the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens.

In a first, the opening ceremonies extended beyond the stadium itself to move along the city's Yarra River. Pontoons on the river bore 71 sculptured fish--each representing one of the Commonwealth countries--animated with lighting and water effects. Athletes ran past the pontoons to bring a baton into Cricket Ground stadium, where an audience of 80,000 watched the show. Big screens relayed the action in the stadium to the river, and vice versa. The art installation will remain in place on the river for the duration of the games, which end on Sunday.

Other highlights of the ceremonies included the opening sequence with a life-size Melbourne tram "flying" into the stadium over the audience, an aerial ballet of dancers from the Australian Ballet with another 120 dancers onstage performing with 30 motorbike stunt riders, and a tribute to the U.K.'s Queen Elizabeth by famed soprano Kiri Te Kanewa.

Jack Morton's Melbourne office was appointed to the project in October 2003. The production team of 120 included veterans of the Athens Olympics Ceremonies. The Melbourne event, which drew an estimated 1.4 billion TV viewers worldwide, involved 2,500 volunteer performers and another 800 workers backstage.

"The reaction to the opening has been exceptional," said Ron Walker, chairman of the organizing committee. "We were delighted to be able to give a warm Australian welcome to the Commonwealth nations by creating a ceremony showcasing the city of Melbourne and allowing so many Melburnians to join in the celebration."

Held every four years, the Commonwealth Games bring together some 5,000 athletes from 71 countries, primarily former territories of the British Empire.

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