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Faster, higher, stronger… and brighter!

Interest in sports in Russia is growing from year to year. Newly built stadiums, sports halls, swimming pools and fitness centres utilize new equipment that literally bursts with high-tech. Nowadays no one is surprised to find a computer in an exercise machine that allows fitness training results to be stored in a flash drive or even posted on the Internet.

But how is lighting of sports facilities progressing? Are the regulations governing its design up to date?

In the context of lighting sports facilities are classified in three types. Type I includes facilities with seating capacity of no less than 800 seats, designed to host international, national and important cup competitions. These facilities provide for routine TV broadcasting. Type II includes sports facilities with seating capacity of fewer than 800 seats used for regional competitions. They have no facilities for regular TV broadcasting and are featured only in individual items of news programmes. This type also includes sports facilities designed for handicapped persons, due to higher demands on the lighting. Type III includes facilities for public sports and athletics. The above classification is covered by the present Russian rules and regulations SP 31-115-2006 “Open level athletic and sports facilities.” Concerning roofed sports facilities the rules and regulations in force SP 31-112-2004 “Athletic and sports halls” do not classify the facilities distinctively in three types, however such classification is used in practice: beside general requirements there are specific specifications for “facilities for training and competition of athletes” and for “competitions at international level.”

European regulations EN 12193 “Light and illumination – lighting of sports facilities” uses a similar three-level classification.

Sports facilities designed for international and national championships

Lighting of Type I sports facilities is defined mostly by the requirements of TV broadcasting. Here much is determined by the parameters of the television equipment and camera locations. Since the participants are filmed mainly from the side, vertical illumination is specified as an additional requirement. The standards of this element depend on athletes’ speed of movement, distance to the subject and the angle of camera lens system. Usually European EN 12193:2007 regulations apply. Minimal vertical illumination is determined with the use of a special diagram.

It should be noted that in the case when broadcasters use slow motion shots for certain competitions even more stringent requirements apply than those stated in EN 12193:2007. Furthermore the said standard recommends the use of light sources with a colour rendering index, CRI, of no less than 80 for TV broadcasting, which is a somewhat outdated figure with the widespread use of the HDTV standard. In today’s practice, stadiums hosting international competitions are required to ensure the value if the index is no less than 90. The prevalence of HDTV is driving the revision of the norms of luminous flux frequency and oscillation levels.


Apart from international standards ratified at national level, lighting requirements may be introduced by sports organizations that organize national or international competitions. This is because the bulk of revenue from the competitions is earned through TV advertising during the broadcasts. This naturally implies the need to make these broadcasts more spectacular. And to accomplish that, athletic fields need to provide an illumination level that would permit placement of cameras in locations with the most eye-catching views.

For example, the present classification of football fields used by UEFA includes four classes. A higher class number means higher standard of the field. This standard is associated with the number of television cameras being used. Class 1 fields have one camera and the lighting standards are fully in the hands of the broadcaster. Class 2 and 3 fields usually have two cameras in different locations. Here it is UEFA that dictates horizontal illumination, however vertical illumination is specified by the broadcaster. Finally, four cameras may be placed around a field when UEFA specifies both horizontal and vertical illumination levels, setting very high values for them.

In the same way sports organizations state the requirements for recovery of lighting in the event of a power supply failure. It should be noted that higher level sports facilities today use mainly lighting fixtures and floodlights with metal halide lamps featuring standard restart time of about 10 minutes. This is absolutely unacceptable for TV broadcasting, thus “warm restart” systems are used providing a practically immediate lamp restart but at the cost of a reduction in service life. It should be kept in mind that the price of metal halide lamps permitting “warm restart” is high – starting at 9,000 rubles for a 1 kW lamp and they require additional costly equipment. Thus transition to LED lighting equipment makes sense and research into this is under way.

In the Russian Federation according to SP 31-115-2006 Regulations illumination of an international level stadium must be designed in accordance with UEFA norms.

Regional facilities

Class II sports facilities that host regional competitions can be built in accordance with individual specifications, subject to the approval of the local physical training and sports authorities. For the majority of such facilities in the Russian Federation there is a tendency to use international regulations. Another issue is versatility of Class II sports facilities – they can be used for both competitions and for public athletic activities. This leads to the need for adjustment of illumination, including dimming.

SP 31-112-2004 Regulations allow the use in multifunctional roofed sports centres of incandescent lamps with no limit on illumination in cases when lighting can be dimmed. Currently the ban of the use of incandescent lamps with the capacity of 100 W and above makes this permission clearly obsolete. The optimal option of illuminating a multifunctional sports centre is LED lighting that allows adjustment of parameters (including hue) over a wide range. SP 31-112-2004 Regulations (the 2004 at the end is the year of adoption) for obvious reasons do not mention such systems.

Public sports activities

Designing of lighting for Class III sports facilities is, incredible as it may seem, sometimes a greater challenge than designing lighting for an international-level athletic field, since it has to manage with lean budgets and switched power limitations.

Regulatory framework assumes special importance in this case. Considering the limited budgets of construction and reconstruction of public sports facilities, official Russian regulations may provide important support in supporting particular technological solutions for a customer.

The already mentioned SP 31-112-2004, SP 31-115-2006 as well as SP 31-113-2004 Regulations “Swimming pools” and SP 31-112-2007 “Roofed ice rinks” include building regulations that view the lighting system as just another structural element of a building.

To a lighting expert, building regulations VSN-1-73 “Requirements of electrical lighting of sports facilities” enacted on January 1, 1974 still serve as comprehensive guidelines. Since the time of its adoption the USSR has collapsed, our country has embarked upon the path towards capitalism, new sports have gained popularity. Above all, the lighting industry has moved on. Apparently this is the oldest regulatory document on lighting engineering among active regulations, at the time of writing.

The regulations abound with anachronisms; for instance, they assume that fluorescent lamps are light sources with high level of oscillations (ECGs were not mass produced at that time). Accordingly, to reduce oscillations the regulations stipulate connection of adjoining lighting fixtures to different phases of a three-phase network. There are no norms for the colour rendering index of light sources (for comparison present-day European standard EN 12193:2007 specifies this characteristic for each sport and every building type), and colour temperature is also not specified. Admittedly when the regulations were developed metal halide lamps did not have the present diversity of colour temperatures and high-pressure sodium-vapour lamps were not in use in the USSR. One should also not look in these regulations for safety data for LED lighting devices – after all, what LED lighting could have been there 40 years ago?

Nevertheless the majority of values of parameters specified in VSN-1-73 and subsequent rules and regulations concerning public sports coincide. It may be due to the fact that the rules and regulations were developed by experts in physical training and construction who did not develop new light engineering norms, but used the existing ones.

Furthermore, light intensity requirements of VSN-1-73 for public sports are quite compatible with EN 12193:2007; however the problem is that it is not the only parameter that defines quality of illumination. For visual comfort correlation between minimal and medium light intensity is important. EN 12193:2007 specifies this parameter separately for each sport and for each type of sports facilities, however present Russian regulations have no such norms.

The All-Russian Research Institute of Light Engineering was developing a new standard of sports lighting, but failed to complete it due to lack of funding (see expert’s opinion). This did not pose problems for construction of facilities of World Students Games in 2013 in Kazan and of Winter Olympic Games in 2014 in Sochi, since then the organizers were guided by the requirements of a high-quality television pictures, and those were definitely superior to the requirements for public sports activities.

At the same time in connection with revitalization of the GTO system of physical training the government has set a task of construction of a large number of sports centres available for all sectors of the population. These centres will be built in proximity to residential communities, that is, within the existing urban areas. Naturally the problem of limiting switched power is bound to arise, the same problem which the existing sports complexes face when expanding. Large-scale construction of “pedestrian-accessible” sports centres will certainly require the development of up-to-date national regulations with regard to new cost-effective light sources. Uniform standards would simplify lighting design development, and lower construction costs without compromising quality, and ultimately make sports generally accessible.

Experts’ opinion

Vadim Dadyka, CEO of AtomSvet LLC:

— The present national regulations contain strict requirements as to illumination of athletic facilities. These facilities need shatterproof high-power lighting fixtures, resistant to all kinds of mechanical damage and fit for operation in any ambient conditions. Illumination of sports centres with LED floodlights is gaining popularity due to their energy performance (energy efficient LED equipment will help in bringing electricity costs down), long service life (up to 12 years) and low operational costs. The price aspect is also quite important: LED floodlights similar to conventional floodlights with metal halide lamps and “warm start” devices already have certain advantages over the latter.

AtomSvet is conducting research into a powerful LED floodlight (with the power of 450 W and over) aimed at the illumination of athletic facilities. The device’s output power could be extended owing to its modular design. The floodlight will feature the capability of light intensity distribution curve adjustment without significant decrease of luminous flux.

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