Competing in Montreal for the first time is always, if you’ll pardon the pun, a baptism of fire. Such was the case for Nanos fireworks, representing Greece – a premier for both country and company. Following several hot humid days, powerful thunderstorms rolled through Montreal on their final day of setup, dumping around 36mm of rain. Not only is the water a potential problem, but, when a thunderstorm is in the vicinity of La Ronde, the firing ramps are evacuated for safety reasons.
And so it was, on the night of their display, though the weather was clear and warm, pyrotechnicians could be seen scurrying around on ramps 3 and 4 as well as making sorties to various floating structures on the lake. This scene did not bode well for the upcoming display and gave me a sinking feeling in my heart. Knowing that Nanos were attempting a very complex display, to see that they weren’t finished setup at 10pm was disconcerting, to say the least. The setup itself included several floating platforms for ramp 5, as well as a large circular structure installed vertically in the centre of the lake on a platform. Between this an the audience, a plethora of smaller floating boxes, forming a teardrop shape in the lake. I reasoned that these were probably to form the “setting the lake on fire” effect that Pavlos Nanos had mentioned to me in the interview.
10pm arrived and still there were lights on in the control room below ramp 4. Then there was an announcement that there was a technical problem with ramp 1 that would take five minutes to fix and would be done to ensure a complete display. But we still witnessed pyrotechnicians scurrying around ramps 2 and 3, as well as attending to the large circular structure. After about 15 minutes, the lights went out in the control room – a good sign! – and a further announcement was made that the problems had been fixed and that the display would start shortly.
So at 10:17, Michel Lacroix did his inimitable countdown and then we heard the voice of HAL, the infallible computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey. But no pyro. The narration from HAL continued. Was it intentional that this was done to black sky? Hard to know, but this increased the feeling for dread that the display may not go well. Then we moved to the Mission Impossible theme and large fronts of angle starmine comets fired left and right. Phew! The firing systems were working. The display gradually picked up pace and all appeared to be well. Excellent use was made of the display area, with the shells and lower-level effects completely filling the all available space. Synchronization was particularly good, causing cheers from the audience as runs of shots zoomed left and right across ramp 3.
At about the mid-way point of the display, we were expecting the lake to be set on fire. Indeed, comets fired in a hemisphere from the vicinity of ramp 4, but none of the floating boxes forming the teardrop shape on the lake appeared to do anything. Was this a technical problem, or had the comets been the full implementation of setting the lake on fire? Hard to know. At this point, the pyro stopped and the synchronized swimmer appeared in the lake between the floating boxes and the audience. The problem with this, for the people sitting in the low seats, is that she was hard to see. So everyone stood up, making it even harder to see. This scene lasted a couple of minutes, totally without any pyro which, to my mind, broke the fluidity and rhythm of the display. Maybe if the talked-of effects had worked it would have been better, but, sadly, I can only judge what I saw.
The rest of the display was excellent, with great music and choice of effects, though maybe we had too many gold-type effects and not quite enough colour, though this latter aspect was correct in the dazzling segments towards the end. Powerful nautical shells bombarded the lake. The circular structure came to life, but with obvious problems as only one half was firing. Ramp 3 had had some kind of problem as the left quarter had stopped firing for a while, but it did come to full life for the final portions of the display, which included a very powerful finale.
This was a great effort by the Greeks, with a very creative design, but they were undoubtedly bitten hard by Tuesday’s storm – either by losing time and/or rain-induced failures. I’m not quite sure what was really envisioned for the lake effects, but their absence did cause a hole in the display unfortunately and the swimmer really didn’t add anything due to this. As I mentioned, debuting in Montreal is always a baptism of fire, but the quality and design was present in abundance from team Nanos and it was an impressive first appearance in Montreal. I sincerely hope we shall see their return in the future.