Panasonic supplied a total of 16 display screens, including the largest-ever, 644 m2 ASTROVISION, to the many venues of the Olympic Winter Games Salt Lake 2002. All utilized the latest technology, the LED system. 18 years had passed since Panasonic delivered the ASTROVISION to the main stadium of the Olympic Games Los Angeles 1984, ushering in a new era of large-scale visual systems. The incandescent lamp system, which had been the norm, had evolved into the liquid crystal display system by the Olympic Games Atlanta 1996, and further evolved into the fluorescent discharge tube system. At each transition, remarkable improvements in image quality and cost were made.
The Evolved LED System that Achieved Zero Screen Failures
An LED-based ASTROVISION system had already been partially incorporated at Nagano 1998, but there was a hurdle to clear: the lack of uniformity in display color. Since then, Panasonic made various improvements in technology. The latest LED model that were used for the screens at Salt Lake 2002 had an exceptionally uniform display with even colors that rendered the gaps between them invisible.
There were many advantages to the LED-based ASTROVISION system, such as its light weight and long life. Ease of transport and assembly drastically reduced overall operational costs. It was user and environmentally friendly. However, the system had a large challenge in severely cold climates as seen in Salt Lake City.
Yoshiyuki Goto, the man in charge of the ASTROVISION system. said, “There is a possibility that outdoor temperatures of -10℃ to -20℃ cause snow on the screens to freeze overnight and damage the LED.”
For Panasonic as well, the severely cold climate in Salt Lake City was uncharted territory. To prevent the light emitters from freezing, the team adopted a strategy. The power was left on 24 hours a day to melt the snow that stuck to the screen. The ASTROVISION screens were always warming up as they waited for events to start.
There were zero screen failures at Salt Lake 2002. Panasonic succeeded in achieving an unprecedentedly high level of reliability.
RAMSA: Measures to Operate Amid the Freezing Cold
The RAMSA team, who’d supplied 35 audio systems across 15 Olympic venues, also spent significant time devising measures against the extreme cold in Salt Lake City. Matsumi Takeuchi, the RAMSA audio team leader at Panasonic, described the experience: “For audio systems that used several oversized speakers, we kept the power running 24 hours a day, similar to the ASTROVISION, so that they could operate at a moment’s notice even at low temperatures. We ran a faint buzzing noise through the speakers to keep them connected to power.”
The Olympic Winter Games Salt Lake 2002 were etched in people’s memories as the perfect blend of these three elements: sports, visions and sounds of the games.