The BBC’s virtual set for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is a joint venture between Lightwell and BK Design Projects. We began work on the designs in early 2019, and developed a multi-level space, within a distinctive architectural envelope. Inspired by both modern and traditional Japanese architecture, we created a timber structured pavilion, notionally sat atop a skyscraper in the centre of Tokyo. We were careful to maintain authentic materials and detailing throughout, ensuring that not even even the finest of constuction details were left out of our model.   

The main presenting area is located on the designs upper, or main deck. This area contains a seated area with a real timber floor, folded metal seats, and chairs for the presenters. In the background of the space, Mount Fuji can be seen on the horizon. Adjacent to this space, is an area of glass floor, with a large format screen. The size of the space is roughly equivalent to the footprint of the physical studio. In our original designs, this large area of glazed floor had been intended as a zone for AR presentations.

The mid-deck is split into two levels. The front part formed a runway style deck, perfect for presenters to deliver show opening pieces to camera. The rear part was intended as a space for groups of athletes to be interviewed against a stylised Tokyo cityscape, densley packed with skyscrapers, and dressed with video screens playing footage of that day’s action. As a consequence of the Covid pandemic, the virtual set was re-located from a studio in Tokyo, to a studio in Salford, U.K. and this wonderful feature had to be abandoned.

The lower deck seating area began as an infinity pool, but it was soon adapted to become a secondary seating area, sat over a koi pool – the fish later acquired names from the crew.

 This was a large, ambitious project, made possible through the hard work and dedication of a talented creative team. At one stage, in 2020, we feared our work might never be seen, so were relieved and delighted that we were finally able to share it with viewers of the BBC's Olympics coverage in 2021. 

Behind the scenes image of the BBC's Tokyo 2020 Olympics studio, at Dock 10, Salford © 2021 Jim Mann

Client: BBC Sport
Design: Lightwell + BK Design Projects
Physical Set Design: BK Design Projects
Set Build: Scott Fleary
Brainstorm/UE integration: Moov
Lighting Director: Dave Gibson



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