Light-emitting diodes from Cree will help illuminate the uniquely designed aquatics center for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Nicknamed the “Water Cube,” the Beijing National Aquatics Centre will be illuminated by some 440,000 LEDs made by the Durham-based semiconductor and LED company. The centre will be the venue for most of the swimming and other aquatic events at the Games.

Covering more than 800,000 square feet, the Water Cube project is designed to have the LEDs illuminate a variety of bubble designs from inside its walls. The walls are translucent, and palns call for the building to glow with color-changing LEDs.

Lighting the Water Cube could give a big boost to Cree’s efforts to popularize LEDs as an alternative to conventional lighting. Cree will embed XLamp model LEDs in the Water Cube’s structure.

“The deal is a major one in the sense that it is high visibility, not because of the number of LEDs,” a Cree (Nasdaq: ) spokesperson told WRAL Local Tech Wire.

A Chinese company, Grandar Landscape Lighting and Technology Group, won the contract to light the center. Cree is a subcontractor. Total value of the deal is $5.4 million, the Cree spokesperson added.

“The scale of the project, combined with unique lighting controls provided by Grandar, will result in a truly memorable display of changing images and colors,” said Scott Schwab, Cree Asia Pacific’s managing director, in a statement. “It’s an extraordinary design that relies on LEDs to create dramatic effects while consuming as little energy as possible.”

COTCO International, the company Cree recently purchased in Hong Kong, won the contract.

"The Water Cube is designed to provide spectacular lighting effects to be seen by millions of people around the world during the Olympics and for years to come,” said XiGuang Fu, chief engineer for Grandar.

“We chose Cree XLamp LEDs because they provide industry-leading performance, and they provide the reliability and design flexibility needed for this highly visible project,” he added. “Cree also provided technical support that will help make the Water Cube a remarkable, world-renowned lighting installation."