LHC officially inaugurated

28 October 2008

The "family photo"

The French-Swiss border near Meyrin flooded with police Tuesday last week, for the protection of the heads of state and ministers who came to CERN for the LHC Inauguration event on October 21st. According to Bernard Lebegue of ATLAS safety, the Swiss sent 300 officers, and the French sent 700, an army complete with snipers hidden away to intervene if necessary. 

However, the celebration was as peaceful as it was educational. Many delegations started their mornings with a visit to one of the four experimental halls. Delegations from Japan, Romania, Turkey, Norway, Poland, Austria, Greece, Israel, and the US all went underground at ATLAS as well as touring the control room and the first part of the tunnel.

“This morning part in ATLAS was by far the most useful,” said Deputy Spokesperson Steinar Stapnes. Unlike the busier and more structured periods in the afternoon, he had more time to explain ideas and instruments as well as answer questions.

The view of the control room highlighted CERN’s role as an excellent “training ground for young physicists”, as Steinar put it.

Spokesperson Peter Jenni agrees: “One thing [political visitors] always say is that they enjoy to see a lot of young people in action.”

Peter couldn’t help smiling at the US and Japanese delegations as they took the opportunity to pose in front of the final focusing magnets, which bear the logos of both Fermilab and KEK along with national flags. Guess where they like to stand for the photo...

On the tour route, the delegations left the elevator to enter an exhibition organized by Michael Barnett, who says that it “was a big success with the nine delegations that came through.  Some lingered for 20 minutes or so.” The ATLAS scroll pens, which contain a tiny pull-out explanation of the experiment, were very popular, and they had to send people across the closed Route de Meyrin to get more from building 40.

The delegations arrived at SM 18 in the early afternoon for the ceremony. Caterers patrolled with beverages, and molecular chefs prepared delicacies such as the popular liquid nitrogen ice cream. Physicists on all levels were available to explain the various exhibits.

Some tables deconstructed the LHC magnets and parts of the detectors. The ATLAS stand boasted a microscope to give attendees a detailed look at a pixel module. A mock tunnel housed dipole magnets, with posters of explanation hung on the outside, and screens brought the building of the detectors alive with animations.

The ceremony was conducted in multiple languages, mainly French and English, but Annette Schavan, Federal Minister of Education and Research of Germany threw in her native tongue. François Fillon, Prime Minister of the French Republic, and Pascal Couchepin, President of the Swiss Confederation, were among the esteemed guests who spoke highly of CERN’s role in the scientific world.

Each representative of the member states signed a guest book before sitting back to enjoy Frans Lanting’s “Origins”, which merged images that took the audience from the big bang to the present day with a lively classical score, played by the distinguished Orchestre de la Suisse Romande sitting below the three large screens.

After the close of the ceremony, the Canadian Ambassador to Switzerland hosted a reception for all Canadians working at CERN. Officials from Canadian funding agencies, as well as LHC Project Leader Lyn Evans, attended the reception in downtown Geneva. That didn't stop Lyn Evans from later attending LHC Fest, the after-party held in SM 18. He even joined in as a back-up dancer for the LHC rap, performed in between the shows by the popular Cernettes and Cannettes.

“I think people in general enjoyed this event,” said Deputy Spokesperson Fabiola Giannotti.  “It showed the fact that really, CERN is a worldwide lab.”


Katie McAlpine

ATLAS e-News