The 17th FINA World Championships opens today, transforming the historic Budapest and the Danube into a grandiose theatre

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Opening Ceremony 2017 at Budapest | Photos Courtesy of Julien Panie

An artistic technical achievement co-created by French showmakers ECA2 and Hungary’s cultural hothouse Müpa Budapest, Hungary’s most modern cultural institutions. Müpa Budapest attracts many and varied disciplines of the arts in unique fashion by providing a home for classical, contemporary, popular and world music, not to mention jazz and opera, as well as contemporary circus, dance, literature and film.

While it looked like mission impossible: to kickoff aquatic sports’ most prestigious biennial event with a splash to be felt all around the world. To create a live spectacle that would be equally stunning to the audience onsite as it would be to television and online viewers.

Where water, history and sport come together
Faced with the task of creating the unforgettable, the teams got to work on the theme: The Memory of Water. Creative minds from Müpa Budapest took inspiration from the history of Hungary and their beloved city, drawing upon the eternal river Danube as a story thread of continuity and unstoppable energy. What better connection between the element of water and Humankind, to excite our anticipation for all the epic aquatic sports that will soon unfold?

An opening ceremony like no other, conjured up in record time
Going even further, ECA2 applied their unique technical expertise to “borrow” the Danube, channeling its waters to take a powerful starring role as choreographed jets, sprays, and ingenious mid-air water screens where fabulous projected video images leave each spectator breathless. Pushing technical capabilities further still, ten-meter-long flames dance amidst hyperactive laser effects, night-beating lightbeams, a heartstopping soundscape, fireworks and drones. Completely breaking the mold of other opening ceremonies, a mesmerising troupe of more than 500 live performers, 220 volunteers and sportsmen interact with sophisticated multimedia technologies, merging innovative dance with a maelstrom of effects.

Budapest and the Danube transformed into a single vast theatre
For this one night only, the Danube, the Buda Castle, the Chain Bridge becomes a single vast theatre, where projected images tell thrilling tales of old, and echo through the excitement of today’s sporting “rendez-vous”. Never before has the world seen an Opening Ceremony where a far-off cityscape defines the extravagant theatre limits, and offers such monumental depth of field for video projection and spectacular special effects. The massive scale and visual finesse are a stunningly unique combo. All emanating from a floating stage right there on the river, occupying an overall area twice as large as an Olympic stadium. The floating set-up itself covers the equivalent of three football fields and presents its own special challenges: because despite high river traffic, the current and tide, projected video content being projected onto structures will cleverly compensate for any movement.


France-based creator and producer of the world's most renowned spectacular multimedia shows. Universally recognised, ECA2 has built an envied reputation in mounting worldwide ceremonies, and the most varied spectrum of events. Over the past 30 years, ECA2 has successfully produced more than 60 major spectacles around the world. Historic one-off events have included opening and closing ceremonies for the Athens Paralympics and the 1998 Football World Cup in France. Among major permanent shows are notably the “Big-O show” for the 2012 Yeosu International Expo and “Wings of Time” in Singapore both recognised by the prestigious THEA Awards in Los Angeles.