all images courtesy Nendo

The climax of the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony was undoubtedly the moment when the torch was passed to star athlete Naomi Osaka, who made her way up to a Mt. Fuji-esque podium. Once she arrived, the mountain opened up in front of her, revealing a set of stairs leading up to a large, white, spherical form. The object then began to rotate as 10 panels detached and “blossomed” into the ceremonial cauldron of fire.

The Olympic cauldron was designed by Oki Sato of Nendo, one of Japan’s most well-known and successful design studios. The form was intended not only to represent the sun but also all the life and energy that the sun gives birth to. And in a nod to the future of energy, hydrogen is being used to fuel the flame for the duration of the Olympics. Except hydrogen burns transparent so sodium carbonate was used to “color” the flame.

Creating the cauldron was no simple task and as Nendo puts it, the process “crystallizes the essence of Japanese manufacturing.” The final form was the result of 85 different test designs as the team worked to investigate the ideal shape. Each exterior panel weighs approximately 40 kg (88 lbs) and are made from thick aluminum. Molding them, and then making them waterproof and fireproof, were all done by the hands of craftsmen. You can read more about this process on Nendo’s website.