Top 10: Olympic tech wins and fails

We look at the best and worst technology from our home-town event

10 Aug 2012

Page 1 of 2Top 10: Olympic tech wins and fails

The Olympics has been brilliant so far, and that comes from a team who commute into central London on a daily basis and none of whom received a single corporate ticket - so we’re not exactly biased. The brilliance of course has to laid at the feet of all those who organised, volunteered, worked or competed. However, technology has played a huge part at this games, and tech is what we know, so here are some of our tech highlights and a few things that went wrong along the way.



If you thought that 4K (4,096x2160) digital cinema was the pinnacle of display technology, think again, as this year's Olympics will see a trial of Super Hi-Vision technology.

Developed by NHK, the format shoots at incredible resolution of 7,680x4,320 pixels or 16-times the number of pixels of a Full HD (1,920x1,080) picture. The result isn't just more clarity, but a much wider field of view.

To top it all off the technology will also be joined by a new surround-sound format, providing 22.2 channels of audio. Special showings are being hosted by the BBC, with limited places available (

"Super Hi-Vision is designed to be experienced as a wide camera angle shot giving the audience the experience of being at an event," says the BBC. "Special showcase screenings will include highlights of the Olympic Games as well as content showing what London feels like as it becomes an Olympic city."

Don't expect the technology to make it to your home any time soon, though. Already, 4K footage is too large to fit on a DVD, while 8K is far beyond that. Without something dramatic changing, there's no possible way of broadcasting such detailed images, either, as there's simply not enough bandwidth. Still, as a showcase of the future, it should be interesting to see.

8K video camera

Forget 4K, the Olympics had some events shot in incredible 8K


Missing out on any Olympic event has barely been an option during these games, mainly thanks to the astounding amount of online coverage. The BBC Olympics website may have a slightly odd layout (see below) but there's no questioning the amount of content.

From BBC journos microblogging the action to endless live streams, catch-up content and clips, you can get a flavour of the games no matter where you are and at any time. One of our writers doesn't even have a working TV aerial, but quality of the stutter-free live streams is better than Freeview.

BBC iPlayer Live

BBC iPlayer - making TV aerials redundant since 2012


You’ve got to hand it to Google - while the BBC and other publications came up with elaborate websites to track your team’s performance, the search engine made it incredibly simple. Just type the name of the sport you’re interested in into the Google search barto get the latest results, or type ‘medals’ to get the latest table. It’s simply brilliant and much easier than clicking through a convoluted website to get the same information.

Google also got into the spirit of the games with its Doodle Games. Click the Google Doodle each day and you get to play a new sports-themed game. Our favourite was the Track and Field-style Olympics game.

A lot easier than trawling through other websites, Google presented all of the important Olympics information in one easy place, plus it has daily games, too


You may have noticed these sizeable remote control cars whizzing about the field in the centre of the athletics stadium. At first we though they were their to help entertain the crowd, but actually they’re far more important.

Each mini Mini is designed to carry the various javelins, shotputs, hammers and discus that are hurled by the competitors. There are holes in the tops of the cars that this veritable armoury can be loaded into, and the controller - a very lucky sixteen year old from a local school - then drives the car back to throwing end, where assistants unload it.

It’s been a huge coup for BMW, as although the mini Minis have no branding, they are instantly recognisable; which has allowed the car a very rare product placement opportunity in the usually advertising-free Olympic venue.

Mini Mini

Sharp javelins, high speed, teenager in charge - and yet no accidents to date


The initial description of the Olympics wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring: a bunch of sheep on a fake field. However, Danny Boyle not only pulled it off, making a moving, frightening and entirely British opening ceremony, but he also employed some rather clever technology.

Top of that list were the LED paddles attached to the seats in the audience, which let the audience disappear and become a giant screen. Each individual bulb could be controlled by computer, letting the organisers display a giant Union Flag or messages to the audience.

It looked absolutely fantastic and we only hope that the same technology is used in the closing ceremony to make the Spice Girls disappear.

Olympics opening ceremony

LED paddles let Danny Boyle turn the audience into a giant screen

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