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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."

The Games utilizes two main cores of IT infrastructure, both developed by Atos Origin: the Games Management System (GMS), which supports planning and operation of the Games, including staffing, accommodation, travel, and medical operations; and the Information Diffusion Systems (IDS), which includes timing and scoring by Omega. Atos employed its first version of this system in Barcelona in 1992. For Beijing, the GMS was developed in Java and includes some open-source components such as the JBoss application server and Apache Tomcat Web server.

There is also the Commentator Information System (CIS), a Java-based system which provides broadcasters with instantaneous, touch-screen access to results and athlete biographies, so they can relay information about events in progress to audiences worldwide. The IDS also includes the official Web site, operated by, and data feeds for media and sporting federations. The CIS has an additional component this year, the Remote CIS, to offer the same information available at venues in offsite locations, including in other countries, for broadcasters and news outlets internationally.

In designing both systems, Hore said it was important to maintain "a core that is strong, reliable and robust." Their main choice was Unix, although Hore said the choice was neither exclusive nor a rejection of any other operating system. "We're not using any Linux in Beijing. We may use it in the future, but we are not using it today," he said. "It's what's the best at the time we make the decision," which was four or five years ago. For that reason, Windows Vista is not used in the Olympic systems, although XP appears on many desktops.

Lenovo has provided 10,000 computers including KTS 660 desktops; Thinkpad T60 and E680 laptops; 5,000 results terminals, split evenly between the CIS and the Games intranet; 4,000 printers, and 1,000 servers, including models R520, G4Y, R630 and R650.

If the swimming venue is the Water Cube, then the Digital Headquarters (DHQ), the Olympic IT hub, can only be called the Borg Cube. A charcoal gray building at the northwest corner of the Olympic Park, its few windows, most of which appear on the building's east side, face both the Water Cube and the Bird's Nest, the Beijing Games' iconic stadium, providing unparalleled views.

In addition to housing the desktop hardware used by each of the 28 sports during the testing phase, DHQ is also home to a 300 square-meter datacenter, one of two used to handle the Olympics data. A second, identical datacenter is maintained at an undisclosed location, for redundancy and security. After testing is completed this month, much of the equipment will move to the respective venues for each sport. Each venue is designed to function independently, Hore said.


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