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Beijing prepares for 'High-tech Olympics'

Steven Schwankert | June 8, 2008
One of the three themes of the Beijing Olympics is to make it a "High-tech Olympics."

In contrast, the summer Olympics features 28 sports and 302 events. They will be spread out over seven cities, as far north as Shenyang, down to Hong Kong in the south. The Games involve 75 venues, 39 of them for competition. About 200,000 accreditations will be issued for athletes, officials, media and others, and during the Games, more than a million pages of information will be served each day.

Take a fixed deadline and the world's largest single event of its type, and add to that the project manager's parameters -- limitations on which vendors' equipment and services may be used. "You don't have as much control over choices because of sponsorships and partnerships," Hore said. That means working with designated vendors, in this case companies such as China Netcom, China Mobile and Lenovo. However, he didn't see it as a hurdle. "It's quite interesting, working with so many different partners and sponsors." And unlike a normal corporate arrangement, it is BOCOG that negotiates with the vendors, not Hore or Atos Origin.

IT planning for the Games began in 2003 with the creation of a master plan. Forty to 50 percent of systems planning is carried over from one Olympics to the next, and then adapted to local conditions. In 2004, Hore and his team began designing the fully-redundant systems, determining their requirements and what would be needed for testing. The following year they concentrated on building the systems and testing facilities, so that in 2006 they could begin the two years of trials required by the Olympics committees.

Just as athletes train for years for the Games, IT people test and test again, with 200,000 hours of trials in total. Atos dedicated about 100 people who have done nothing but conduct tests. Some systems, such as those for managing accommodations for athletes, families and Games personnel, had to be operational three years in advance. The volunteer system needed to go in two years ahead of time.

Ahead of the Olympics, each venue and system handles a test event, usually a national competition or world championship that provides a live environment to put the gear and its operators through their paces. The IOC's sporting federation for each sport must sign off on the test results following its event.

Atos Origin will also hold two full-scale, three-day technical rehearsals prior to the Olympics, simulating operation of the systems and introducing about 700 scenarios to see how the systems and technical personnel respond. Scenarios can include IT-related issues, such as a security breach or a fire in substation, or non-IT issues, like a large number of staff contracting food poisoning and rendered unable to reach their stations. Atos completed the first of these on April 3, declaring it a success. The second rehearsal is this week, from June 9 to 13.


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