LEDs score gold at Olympics

-July 30, 2012

LEDs are lighting up the Olympics. GE, for example, has exceeded $1 billion in infrastructure sales over the past four Olympic games. From Torino in 2006 to London in 2012, Olympic projects typically cover game venues, health centers and nearby commercial facilities. While lighting isn’t the only focus of GE regarding infrastructure, it is a major consideration. For the London games, the LED lighting products included:

London’s Tower Bridge: GE, EDF, the Mayor of London and City of London Corporation refitted London’s Tower Bridge with an energy-efficient LED lighting system, expected to be in place for the next 25 years. The 800-foot long London Tower Bridge has been illuminated by a legacy system for more than 25 years and the new LED technology will cut its energy use by 40%.


The Tetra Contour system by GE provides the classic look of exposed neon and all the energy efficiency of LED technology. The technology used along the bridge can control the vividness of the lighting and it can be dimmed or enhanced at will.

Did you see the dove bikes at the opening ceremony? Yep—the fabric wings had tiny LED lights and were operated by aluminum rods attached to the handlebars. The riders need only to press the handlebars to create the flapping effect.

Olympic Park, which includes Olympic Stadium, the Velodrome and Aquatics Center: GE Lighting supplied 25,000 Tetra PowerMAX LED modules as well as Tetra LED Drivers to light the park at night. Currently, for the games, the light levels will be 15 or 30 lux, which will be dimmed to 15, 5 or 2 lux once the Olympics are over. Accommodating CCTV cameras was part of the goal for the lighting masts in the park, which will be removed post games. The masts keep the apparatus from ground level eliminating clutter and adding to safety. The masts at 3`m tall, topped with a 5m-tall vertical wind turbine, below which is a 7m-diameter “halo” light housing. There are 7 masts in total, spaced 65m apart.

In this case, lighting giant Philips was very visible. The luminaires contain removable LED light engines to allow replacement and future upgrades. Philips Lumileds supplied the LEDs. Each halo supports 12 floodlights, containing 150W, 3000K CMH lamps.  The circumference of each halo has an array of 528 RGB LED nodes that convey various color schemes and animated patterns. The RGB LED system was manufactured by Philips Color Kinetics and supplied by UK-based distributor Architainment. In total there are 11,193 channels of individual control, using hard-wired Ethernet and Wi-Fi.

One of the coolest—pun intended—LED light use, was LED-lit seats. Olympic viewers watched as waves of lights flowed with the beat of the music.

Much of the work was in play well before the Olympics torch was passed. The International Exhibition & Convention Centre saw an LED lighting upgrade in advance of the games. Existing lighting gave way to greener, more energy-efficient LEDs replacing 35 existing 400W high-pressure sodium (HPS) fixtures with Dialight’s 150W 14,000 lumen High Bay LEDs to light the north side loading docks and traffic marshaling areas.

Two years ago there was another light replacement at the same facility that accounted for a 70% reduction in energy consumption. The retrofit exchanged 194 400W high-pressure sodium units with 150W Dialight High Bays throughout the building’s one-half-mile-long Central Boulevard location. The 100,000 square meter ExCeL London doubled the on-floor illumination (from 100 to 220 lux), resulting in 3x the energy efficacy (4.2 W/m2 compared to 12.32 W/m2).

ExCeL London will host 7 Olympic and 6 Paralympic events, including the boxing, wrestling, judo, tae kwon do, table tennis, boccia, weight lifting and power lifting, fencing, wheelchair fencing and sitting volleyball competitions.

Here’s another really cool application that found its way to the Olympics. In this case, the footsteps of visitors are actually lighting up the LED lamps just outside the main Olympics stadium.

There are 20 circular slabs that, when walked on, capture the kinetic energy from each step to light up nearby LED lamps with 7watts of power per step—lighting the LEDs for 30 seconds. This is the brainchild/invention of a company called PaveGen and it’s easy to see the potential of applications outside of the Olympics.

Naturally there are LED-based hats, wands, and you-name-it gizmos that are part of the Olympics fare. Given the high fun factor and relatively low cost, the technology can be seen all over the Games. It's the beauty that they add, however, that will live long in memory.

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