It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to showcase what the UK’s lighting industry can do – so will the London Olympics live up to its billing as the greatest show on earth? Mark Burgess and Robert Atwing report exclusively from the Olympic Park

It’s every built-environment professional’s dream: to have their creativity and technical expertise viewed by billions worldwide. For the lucky few who have won design and installation work on the London Olympics, it’s a once-in-a-career opportunity for CV gold dust and a story to tell the grandchildren.

But the bar has been set nose-bleedlingly high by the organisers of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the challenges set down by the Olympic Delivery Authority have been legion, not least that London 2012 should have the required ‘wow’ factor, be the greenest games ever and leave a strong legacy for the people of East London.

The lighting design profession – which didn’t exist when London last hosted a global sporting event on a comparable scale, the World Cup finals in 1966 – has come of age just in time for this, its biggest test.

A dozen lighting design practices and consultancies have been engaged by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) to help deliver both the demanding technical aspects of the games (this is, after all, the first Olympic Games to be transmitted in high definition) as well as the much-vaunted legacy.

Different approaches

Some have questioned the policy of engaging so many different practices. The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment says that while it applauds the strategy to provide a legacy lighting proposition that will remain long after the athletes have flown home, ‘the question which arises is whether in overall terms the many individual lighting design elements will be greater than the sum of their parts’. It says: ‘Lighting is far more than a matter of technical compliance. We wonder how the ODA plans to assess the look and feel of the work contributed by the many different hands.’

It’s not just lighting designers who have benefitted. The boost to the lighting industry is estimated to be over £100 million. One manufacturer is reckoned to have already totalled orders of over £35 million.

And it’s not just the Olympic Park and the venues themselves. For instance, main sponsor GE is involved in much of the infrastructural investment around London 2012, including lighting, having made £450 million from 400 contracts around the Beijing Games.

One of its showpiece projects will be the exterior illumination of Tower Bridge, which will replace an ageing Philips installation. HID floodlights will be replaced by an all-LED installation, cutting energy consumption by 40 per cent, under a deal between City Hall, the City of London Corporation, EDF and GE. The lighting design will feature LEDs and new cabling to enhance the listed building’s features including the gothic turrets, central aerial walkway and suspension chains – all in colours that the company says will be ‘sensitive to its listed status’.

The athletics track is lit by 14 triangular steel latticework lighting towers, each 70 metres high

Flexible design

The design will be flexible, capable of different colours and intensities of light, so it will be able to respond to special events such as the Olympics and Paralympics. Work on the project is due to start next month. The Victorian cast-iron streetlights on each approach to the bridge are being refurbished by DW Windsor.

EDF, the sustainability partner of London 2012, says it will match every unit of electricity supplied to the bridge with power generated from low carbon sources.

There’s a similar emphasis for the public realm lighting at the Olympic Park. Each of the lighting columns will be equipped with a photovoltaic panel that will feed electricity from solar power back into the grid to offset the energy consumed by the lamps and electronic control gear.

All lighting designs must comply with relevant standards and best-practice procedures on light pollution. The schemes must also be designed with consideration to local residents and wildlife, especially bat populations. Photoelectric and PIR control will be required on all lighting to ensure lights are not illuminated when there is plenty of daylight.

The ODA says it will use energy-ef cient lamps including  uorescent, ceramic metal halide and LEDs, but not SON because its colour rendering is poor and it is unsuitable for use with CCTV.

Meeting standards

All external lighting will be designed in accordance with BS EN 12464-2 (Lighting of Outdoor Workplaces) and BS 5489 (Road Lighting), and take into account guidance in LG6 and the CIE report on obtrusive light.

The needs of the Olympic Broadcasting Service (OBS) will be paramount. For instance, the demands of TV crews will trump those of the environment during the cycling  nals. Daylighting at the velodrome will be hidden away during the competition. Rules on lux levels set out by the International Olympic Committee and the OBS stipulate that glazing be covered with blackout blinds during the broadcasting of cycling events.

The OBS is reportedly concerned that cameras will have dif culty adjusting to different lighting conditions. LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games)and Hopkins Architects believe this wouldn’tbe a problem.

The pringle-shaped velodrome by Hopkins Architects

Light artists

Although the emphasis is on low-energy lighting and the legacy of the Games, the ODA has left some room for some fun – in the form of light art.

It commissioned Jason Bruges Studio and Martin Richman to design a series of works for the Allies and Morrison-designed bridges and underpasses at the Olympic Park.

The two practices, which were chosen from a shortlist of eight, will create audio, light and tactile elements to wow visitors to the park after dark.

In one idea, a series of LEDs in the balustrade of a pedestrian bridge will be programmed to illuminate in waves that will match the speed of Usain Bolt, the Gold-medallist and record-holder for the fastest 100m sprint in 9.72 seconds. Visitors to the park can ‘race’ against Bolt, and get some appreciation of the incredible achievements of Olympic athletes.

font color=”=#000000″>GE Lighting will supply 659 Odyssey road lighting fittings to 35 Olympic sites around the UK. Some 608 fittings at both competition and non-competition venues will be fitted with 70W HPS lamps and 51 will have 150W CMH Streetwise lamps.

The first installations will take place at the logistics centres at Tilbury and Stevenage, which manage equipment deliveries to the Olympic venues, and at the Uniform Distribution and Accreditation Centre of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Odyssey is GE’s latest road lighting fitting and operates with a range of lamps rated from 50 to 150W. GE’s Streetwise lamps are currently being trialled by 80 local authorities around the UK, all of whom are looking to upgrade their street lighting systems to an efficient white light source. It is effective for security lighting, especially for CCTV, because it ensures that colours are rendered accurately and that images are suitable for facial recognition.

GE is a worldwide partner of the Olympic Games and will be supplying a range of products and services.



Aquatics centre
Eton Manor sporting facilities
Handball arena
Athletes’ Village (daylighting)
ArcelorMittal Orbit 


Happold Lighting
International Broadcast Centre
Olympic Stadium

Max Fordham
Water polo arena

Speirs and Major
Athletes’ Village (electric lighting)

Basketball arena


Sutton Vane Associates
Park and public realm

Bridges and underpasses
Southern Park loop road, Greenway and perimeter

Northern Park loop road

Light art
Monica Bovincini
Jason Bruges
Jan Dinniber
Martin Richman
Arup (integration and engineering support)

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