Stadium Inflatables for 2023 AFC Asian Football Cup Opening Ceremony

The Customer - Katara Studios on behalf of AFC 2023

Katara Studios is a world-class film and music production and post-production facility located in Doha, Qatar – the prosperous economic and cultural hub of the Middle East. The company’s philosophy is to deliver ‘artistic excellence, outstanding quality, cultural relevance and ethical standards’ with content that inspires and enriches global audiences. Such values are in perfect harmony with those of Glow Inflatables Ltd based in the United Kingdom, already providing a creative force for good across the world.

Katara Studios was commissioned to produce the opening ceremony of the 2023 Asian Football Cup tournament. It needed to be a captivating concept on a huge scale which would shine a spotlight on the values and culture of the Qatari community as well as draw in millions of viewers from around the world. In an interview with The National News, Hussein Fakhri, Katara Studios executive producer explained how he planned to develop the concept into a fully-fledged ‘musical on steroids’ based on the traditional Arabic fable of Kelileh and Demneh.

“A fully-fledged ‘musical on steroids’ based on the traditional Arabic fable of Kelileh and Demneh.”

The Challenge - To create large-scale parade inflatables for a high-impact global stadium event.

The Lusail Stadium in Doha recently hosted the Football World Cup and is the largest stadium in the Middle East with a capacity of over 80,000. Events held here consequently set extremely high expectations for excellence on an enormous scale. Katara Studios needed to create a show with maximum impact to deliver a fitting welcome to the Asian Football Cup and bring traditional Arabic culture to a global audience.

In the collection of Arabic fables which inspired the concept, the main characters Kelileh and Demneh are jackals who both narrate the story and feature as protagonists. Katara Studios commissioned the team at Glow Inflatables Ltd to supply them with two 12.7m long x 10.3m high x 4.47m wide parade-style inflatable jackals to represents these two characters, one in red and one in blue.

The inflatables needed to be very intricate in their design, looking more like sculptures than inflatable models. Although the 3D elements of the project were important to the design, this would add extra weight so we needed to take this into consideration and work hard to get the perfect balance of design versus feasibility as both inflatables needed to be appear weightless. The colossal jackals needed to be inflated with helium which would take around 10 minutes and be able to be removed from the pitch also within 10 minutes to ensure a smooth transition in the performance.

“The inflatables needed to be very intricate in their design, looking more like sculptures than inflatable models.”

The Solution - Meticulous design and installation with a dedicated on-site team

For optimum impact, the team at Glow meticulously designed and worked out the material weights, volumes and lift using comprehensive calculations and software to ensure positive buoyancy, without sacrificing the intentional undulation of the design when moving around the stadium.

For maximum sculptural realism, a ribbed effect was added to the surface of the construction material which covered the jackals’ entire bodies and legs and multiple chambers were incorporated around the head and mane to add depth and detail. The giant inflatables also needed to have a beautiful shimmer and opulent finish about the material to tie in with the scenery and grandeur of the event so a special glittery powder was added into the material during manufacture.

Once the installations were in situ, Glow provided a dedicated team to be on site in Qatar from 26th December 2023 to 14th January 2024 to ensure the two giant jackals were correctly and speedily inflated and installed. There followed multiple rehearsals with our team on hand to integrate the inflatables into the whole incredible production.

The Outcome - A ground-breaking spectacle on an impressive scale

Kelileh and Demneh: The Lost Chapter is an Asian fable representing the universal theme of human self-discovery and the true meaning of happiness. This beautiful story was brought to life through the collaboration of some of the finest artists and performers from around the region in a vibrant portrayal that had a magical effect on the 80,000 plus people in the stadium. Glow’s colossal inflatable animal characters were also accompanied by an exhilarating lightshow and fireworks.

The success of this amazing event reinforces the power of the creative arts and their ability to break through barriers of language and culture, bringing diverse nations together whilst telling universal stories all around the world.

Comments on social media were united in their praise for the spectacular event including “flawless”, “world class”, “creative beyond limits” and even stating that the opening ceremony was better than the World Cup!

Here at Glow Inflatables Ltd we thrive on pushing the boundaries of possibility, making the imaginable a reality. Being a part of the huge international success of the high-profile AFC opening ceremony was an exhilarating pleasure and reinforces the assurance that we are the go-to inflatables company for any global event.

“Glow Inflatables has once again proved themselves to be the obvious choice for creative, high-spec artistic installations at any scale on a global stage – in this case, quite literally!”