A projection mapping light show made its Olympic debut at the weekend ahead of the 100m finals at Tokyo’s National Stadium.

The light show was introduced for the women’s 100m final on Saturday night and was also used during yesterday’s men’s final. The technology was previously used during the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar.

The Doha event was attended by a delegation from the Tokyo 2020 organising committee and the Olympic Broadcasting Service, and it was decided that a similar light show would be developed for this year’s Games. However, the logistics of the National Stadium and the programme of athletics events at the venue meant that the light show could only be used for the 100m finals.

The show was used to create anticipation for the race and to introduce the eight finalists. Imagery was projected onto the running track using 12 projectors which were in place for the Games’ opening ceremony.

The show featured 3D images of the world and a zoomed-in shot of the Tokyo skyline, before the name of each athlete in the final was projected on the track as they were introduced.

World Athletics’ event presentation manager Florian Weber said the show took 20 hours of rehearsal ahead of its debut on Saturday. The show required the entire stadium to be plunged into darkness, with its big screens and house lights all switched off to enhance the experience for those inside the stadium and viewers watching at home.

Broadcasters were provided with desk lamps to allow them to continue to see their commentary notes when the lights went out, while athletes were briefed about the process beforehand and taken to the track eight minutes ahead of the start.

“We’ve created a Hollywood-style introduction for our athletes because they are the stars of our show and they deserve this kind of attention,” Weber said. “We’re also in the business of entertaining the fans and this is one of the tools we can use to grab their attention.

“But we can only do it in a modern stadium like this one that has the technology we need, including the ability to turn the lights up and down in an instant.”

The Tokyo Olympics are going ahead without fans after a state of emergency was declared in the Japanese capital ahead of the Games. It had been hoped that a limited number of spectators would be able to attend events but this was not possible due to the escalating COVID-19 situation in Tokyo.

Image: Christel Saneh/World Athletics