The arch was designed by Chuck Hoberman to be used as a mechanical curtain for the Olympic Medal Plaza’s stage. It is a semi-circular aluminum structure, which opened like the iris of a human eye. The arch design was inspired by Utah’s natural stone arches, such as Delicate Arch. At the time of its construction the arch was the largest unfolding structure in the world.
The arch is 36 feet (11 m) tall, 72 feet (22 m) feet wide, and weighs 31,000 pounds (14,000 kg) It is made up of 4,000 individual pieces put together as 96 connected panels and are connected with 13,000 steel rivets. The 96 panels vary in size, but the largest are 9 feet (2.7 m) tall and 5 feet (1.5 m) wide.
The panels are also translucent which allowed light from behind to be seen and echoed the 2002 Olympic theme Light the Fire Within. Two 30-horsepower motors controlled eight separate cables which pulled the mechanical curtain open in about 20 seconds.When the arch was fully opened it had folded up into a 6 feet (1.8 m) ring, which framed the stage.