Starring at the Olympics: LEDs at their best

Chief editor - Vladimir Krylov
Deputy chief editor - Michael Nikoulichev
Editor - Dmitry Scherbinin

The 2008 Beijing Olympics has many nicknames: “The Green Olympics”, “The People’s Olympics”, even “Hi-Tech Olympics”. Indeed, the organizers did their best to add some real content to these journalistic clichés, especially in whatever concerns hi-tech area. The latest Olympic Games in Beijing will be always remembered for construction of unique sports facilities. But any modern construction must somehow utilize the LED technological advantages. With all the famous people present at the Games, the real starts were LEDs.

The Opening Ceremony fireworks Beijing Pangu Plaza near “Water Cube” and “Bird's Nest”
The Opening Ceremony fireworks
Photo credit: picasaweb.google.com
Beijing Pangu Plaza near “Water Cube” and “Bird's Nest”
Photo credit: Pangu Plaza

This is a short list of important places where LEDs were featured prominently:

  • Outdoor TV LED screen and large outdoor screens such as Morgan (3 400 sq. meters) located at Bejing Pangu Plaza , and Sky LED (7 500 sq. meters) in one of Beijing’s mega-malls;
  • Numerous LED screens and signs at the sites of sports events;
  • LED lighting of the National Center for Water Sports;
  • Lighting and illumination at the Bird’s Nest stadium and in the Olympic Park (for example, “The Golden Dragon”);
  • Rich and colorful LED decoration of numerous sports complexes;
  • General lighting, including street lighting, of sports facilities and city squares.

Prior to the Games, the Chinese government started large-scale landscape design works in Beijing and other cities around China. The lighting arrangement was mostly designed using LED applications.

Olympic Park Olympic Park
Olympic Park
Photo credit: maildumper.com

The Opening Ceremony surprised everyone with the unique LED screen that covered the field of Bird’s Nest stadium like a carpet and the construction of the Olympic Rings. Two well-known companies Apcus Technologies and Beijing Leyard designed, manufactured, installed and commissioned these masterpieces under the new brand of Aptus Leyard. The surface of the LED screen is unique because cars can drive and people can walk over it, and later it can be rolled up and stored.

LED screen-carpet at the Opening Ceremony The construction of the Olympic Rings
LED screen-carpet at the Opening Ceremony
Photo credit: Apple Daily
The construction of the Olympic Rings
Photo credit: peopledaily.com.cn

Most of the Olympic facilities were lighted up by LEDs made by Cree (USA).

The National Center for Water Sports – “Water Cube”

The National Center for Water Sports is also known as a Water Cube. To create unusual color and lighting effects, nearly half a million LEDs were spread over the 80 000 square meters of wall surfaces. The water Cube was constructed by a consortium of Chinese and foreign companies, the lighting was designed by Arup Lighting, while one of the Chinese companies was chosen as a supplier of lighting fixtures.

LED façade of “Water Cube” LED façade of “Water Cube”
LED façade of “Water Cube”
Photo credit: beijingolympic2008.wordpress.com
LED façade of “Water Cube”
Photo credit: www.getwonder.com

The architects conceived the idea of the building by watching the soap bubbles. The Water Cube contains nearly 3000 plastic Teflon sections capable of changing innumerable colors. The LED modules are built into the steel structural supports of the building. Each day the Cube displays a different color pattern. Typical patterns include “Flowers in bloom”, “Rainy day”, “Night discothèque” etc. Teflon sections are strong enough to carry the weight of a car. They also ensure a heat-saving effect that allows reducing power consumption of the building by 30%.

The Beijing authorities plan to start using the Water Cube not only as a sports stadium but as a place for entertainment and recreation as well.

Olympic stadium – “Bird's Nest” LED lighting

Lighting of the main Olympic venue the Bird’s Nest was done by Arup Lighting. Nearly 300 000 white, amber and red LED lamps circle the outer perimeter of the stadium.

Olympic stadium – “Bird's Nest” LED lighting Olympic stadium – “Bird's Nest” LED lighting
Olympic stadium – “Bird's Nest” LED lighting
Photo credit: en.beijing2008.cn

Cree LED lamps were used inside the stadium as well: for the video display behind the main stage, for the roll-up screen spread over the field. The LED signs in each sector of the stadium were supplied by PolyBright International in cooperation with Chinese partners. The well-known company Neo-Neon created LED lighting fixtures which is their main specialty.

“Wukesong” Arena

The main venue for basketball games Wukesong Arena was constructed by HOK Sports, while Focus Lighting created artistic design for general lighting of the whole building. The concept idea was to create a blooming lotus flower, not the easiest task possible.

“Wukesong” arena LED screens of “Wukesong” arena
“Wukesong” arena
Photo credit: www.flickr.com
LED screens of “Wukesong” arena
Photo credit: wikipedia.org

LED screens at the Olympics

The official partner for the Olympics as usual was Panasonic. The company was allowed to install 25 large LED screens at 18 venue sites. The total image area of installed Panasonic screens amounted to 1 291 square meters.

Outdoor LED screen LED screen at “Water Cube”
Outdoor LED screen
Photo credit: www.daylife.com
LED screen at “Water Cube”
Photo credit: ledsmagazine.com

At 12 Olympic venues Beijing fans could watch the events and replays on large LED screens manufactured by Barco. In Shanghai Barco installed a huge screen with the image area of 391 sq. m specially for the spectators of the Games.

The main LED screen at “Bird's Nest” LED screen at Shun Yi Olympics Cultural Square
The main LED screen at “Bird's Nest”
Photo credit: ledsmagazine.com
LED screen at Shun Yi Olympics Cultural Square
Photo credit: Barco

Several other Chinese manufacturers received commission for installation of LED screens of different sizes around the Beijing area. Basically, we can say that the Olympic Organizing Committee became the largest customer for LED screens in China in 2008. The Beijing company Leyard installed five LED screens of 100 square meters each. The screens were positioned in the squares of the city to allow people to watch the Games without attending the Games.

Lighting fixtures

Thousands of 6-meter fountains with LED lamps by Osram Thousands of 6-meter fountains with LED lamps by Osram
Photo credit: Osram

GE is another manufacturer of lighting fixtures that received orders for lighting at the Olympic Games. Most of the lighting was made on LEDs. GE provided special LED lamps with solar batteries for some soccer stadiums. The Beijing Games will always be remembered as the Olympiad of “green” technologies.

Thousands of 6-meter fountains make up the immense water structure “Dragon” that stretches 600 meters through the Olympic Park and form a two-kilometer long winding river. The fountains are operated to create a spectacular effect of the waves. Special lighting effects designed to impress the spectators were based on Osram LED lamps.


The four years between the Olympic Games is the period for everyone to get ready for new achievements. We’ll be eagerly waiting for new LED records at the Games in London in 2012.