Local resident reveals technological challenges behind gala event It was quite a heady performance. But the seven-tonne Cycladic head rising from the water, and its destruction into smaller and smaller figures, was the most challenging part of the opening ceremony - one which had Hong Kong-based Antony Spanbrook on tenterhooks. 'We were all nervous about the whole head sequence. We had not rehearsed it much, having got only a couple of chances, and we were all quite anxious that nothing would go wrong and just hoping for the best. Thankfully, everything turned out as planned,' said the hugely relieved Spanbrook, one of the producers behind the grand opening ceremony. Australian-born Spanbrook works for Jack Morton Worldwide, the company entrusted with the opening and closing ceremonies. Hours after the 10,000 athletes from 202 countries were welcomed to the Games, Spanbrook described the challenges that had been faced in creating the spectacular opening. 'The whole show was incredibly technological, especially the intricate aerial flying sequences. We spent a lot of time on the Cycladic head rising from the water and its breaking up into different pieces. It was not an easy thing as the whole head weighed seven tonnes and once it broke up, we had to get it out of the way,' he said. Spanbrook, 34, revealed the many challenges and detailed planning that went into the show which used state-of-the-art technology - including animatronics that moved the centaur - and 5,000 volunteers and artists. Artistic director Dimitris Papaioannou was determined to provide a triumphal pageant to welcome the Games home, he said. 'Another huge challenge was how to drain the lake quickly. The lake was 20 centimetres of water and was filled with more than 2 million litres of water. We had to figure out a way to drain it in three minutes so the athletes could march into the stadium,' said Spanbrook. The head and water disappeared into the bowels of the earth. A seven-storey pit in the ground - the first time such a piece of engineering has been done in a sports stadium, said Spanbrook - served as the receptacle for the massive head. Drainage valves, emptying at 3,000 litres per second, sucked the water out. 'Then getting the athletes out quickly was another big target. Our scheduled time was one hour and 46 minutes, but we went 10 minutes beyond that. But that was not bad considering this stadium has only two ingress points. You can't deny the athletes their moment in the sun when they walk in,' he said. Spanbrook has promised many more gala surprises when the Games come to an end on August 29. 'The world will see something totally different from what they saw last night. It will be more of a celebration and a party,' he said. Spanbrook was one of three Hong Kong residents involved in the three-hour show. The others were Lucille Essey, who co-ordinated the parade of athletes, and Dave Low, who is also responsible for the handover sequence of the Olympics to Beijing at the closing ceremony. 'It was a great effort from the entire team,' said Spanbrook. '[The closing ceremony] will be a bigger challenge. The stadium will only become available to us after the last event ends and we will have less than 16 hours to get everything ready. But we are confident that it will be a great show.'