Flaming secret project for Tockwith company

The Olympic cauldron, made by Tockwith firm Stage One, being lit during the opening ceremony.
The Olympic cauldron, made by Tockwith firm Stage One, being lit during the opening ceremony.

A Tockwith company has crafted the mechanical Olympic Cauldron that wowed the world during the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

Workers at Stage One toiled in secret for two months on the 28feet structure in a hanger on the Marston Business Park during the project codenamed Betty.

Simon Wood, the sales director of the firm which also made the giant Olympic rings hung from Tower Bridge, said: “It has been a major, major secret.

“It has been fantastic to be involved with the London Olympics.

“The cauldron particularly was a real coup from our point of view because it’s the ultimate icon of the whole event - apart from the athletes, of course.”

A rehearsal took place in Tockwith before the cauldron was brought to London for another secret testing at 3am when volunteers had left the stadium and no helicopters could fly overhead.

Thomas Heatherwick designed the London 2012 Games centrepiece which features 204 copper petals, each one representing one of the competing nations, which were taken to the stadium by each team as part of the athletes procession.

The petals were then attached to long pipes in a ring at the centre of the Olympic Stadium before being lit and rising into the air.

More than a billion people watched worldwide as its separate petals came together in 10 rings to create a dandelion of fire in one giant flame in the climax to Danny Boyle’s mesmerising Isles of Wonder theme show for the opening ceremony.

Thomas, from London, said: “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.”

But he admitted one of the stainless steel rods holding the burning metal basins became jammed in a secret run-through the day before.

“We had been perfecting it throughout the week. At the last test session a pin on which one of the petals pivoted had not been put in right.”

The designer, 42, said his team did not let him know about the glitch, which took place during a series of rehearsals at the Olympic Stadium during the early hours of Thursday.

They worked desperately to cure the problem and ensure it was fully operational before Friday night’s triumphant ceremony.

Thomas added: “It really would have been a head-in-your-hands moment if it had not happened on the night.”

The awe-inspiring cauldron has been moved from the centre of the Olympic Stadium ready for the athletics.

It now sits at the southern end of the arena, ahead of the 100m finish line where the giant bell was struck to start Friday’s epic curtain-raiser.

Stage One, which operates out of what designer Thomas described as a “Bond-style gadget workshop”, had previously worked on the Athens Olympics opening ceremony and the Winter Olympics in Canada.

The firm also works on other technology including creating a pub of the future - Star and Crater - for the Tetley Brewery Wharf Visitor Centre.

It made the Sunday Times HSBC International Track 100 for its non-UK sales growth over two years.

The Olympic cauldron will be dismantled after the Games and each of its petals given to the 204 National Olympic Committees.