Beijing 2008 Olympic Games are Almost there
And Panasonic is on the Scene vol.1
- Yoshiyuki Goto
- Technology Director for Olympic Project
Beijing Olympic Project Office
Panasonic Corporation of China
Hello, I'm Yoshiyuki Goto from the Beijing Olympic Project Office, and I'm the second leg in this report. My main responsibility now is managing delivery of the huge Astrovision display systems. Once the Games are under way, I'll be providing technical support too.
I'm sure it's hard for you to picture the actual size of Panasonic's Astrovision display systems. Our small systems are 3.5 meters high and 4.5 meters wide, or 230 inches diagonal. The big ones, like the ones you'll see at the main stadium, are 9.2 meters by 16.5 meters, or 740 inches diagonal. As you can see, they are remarkably large.
Astrovision displays were first used at the Los Angeles Games in 1984. More recently, they've been used in seven consecutive Games -- from the Atlanta Games in 1996 to the upcoming Beijing Games. As you can imagine, they've brought some truly spectacular images to viewers over the years.
The first Olympic Games I visited is the 1998 Nagano Winter Games in Japan. At the opening ceremony there - an awesome spectacle, by the way - the man in charge of the Astrovision systems was right next to me shouting to his wife on a cell phone. "Hear that?" he said as the crowd roared. "That's how excited everyone is about the Astrovision images that I set up for them to see!" I felt chills run up my spine. I still think of the strong emotion of that moment sometimes. His efforts helped not only the tens of thousands of people in the stadium experience the pomp and pageantry of the opening ceremony, but, through a variety of media, millions of people around the world as well. That's the kind of thrill this job involves. The responsibility is enormous, but so is the satisfaction. At times the situation just awes me.
With massive equipment like the Astrovision, of course, delivery and setup are challenging tasks that require a lot of special know-how. A single Astrovision is assembled by stacking up a number of LED display modules, each of which is about 1.5 square meters (16.46 square feet) and weighs more than 150 kilograms (330 lbs). A 300-inch-class Astrovision display is made of 16 units stacked in a 4 x 4 configuration. It takes a team of 8 to 10 people a full day to set one up. Like constructing a building,assembly is a careful step-by-step process that requires both brains and brawn.
A host of factors can come into play. In winter, for example, you have to keep in mind that the site could be covered with snow. You have to find out about the local wind conditions, and you have to chart out even small bumps and ruts in the ground surface before bringing in the equipment.
Once the muscle work is done, the next steps involve some intricate electrical work and adjusting the color balance of all the LED display modules. It takes a trained staff of technicians to adjust the image. Only when all this is done are preparations complete.
Our work here in Beijing is moving along well. In December 2007, an international table tennis tournament was held in a gymnasium at Peking University - the site where Olympic table tennis events will take place. Earlier we'd installed a 300-inch system that stands 4.6 meters high and 6.1 meters wide.
The tournament served as a test event.* We used the same equipment and staff that we'll use during the actual Olympic Games - and for that reason the event was dubbed the "Good-Luck Beijing" tournament. It was only a test, but believe me, we felt a lot of pressure to get everything right. And everything turned out fine. Table tennis is really popular in China, and the audience was enthralled with the tournament.
One thing that impressed me at the test event were all the beautiful smiling faces of the volunteers. They really embodied the spirit of the Olympic slogan - Bei Jing Huan Ying Nin, which means "Welcome to Beijing." If you're lucky enough to get to visit Beijing during the Games, I'm sure you'll see plenty of those smiles for yourself.
* Test events are official BOCOG events held at Olympic venues. They serve as test runs for equipment and operating systems that will be used during the Games.