Technology bringing the Games to life
From enabling families and fans to follow the sporting action on mobile devices and televisions across the world, or from timing and distributing accurate sport results to the world rapidly, technology is everywhere and plays a fundamental role at the Olympic Games.
At the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, approximately 120,000 pieces of equipment have been deployed across all the venues, 500km of fibre optics have been installed, more than 2,000 WiFi access points will be used, 4G will be available for the first time in the Olympic Park, and more than 600,000 sports results will be gathered, processed and transmitted. These figures only begin to illustrate the scale of technology at the Games.
Working together for the benefit of the Games
“During the Games, we provide a service for athletes, for sports federations, for National Olympic Committees (NOCs), for media, for all of the stakeholders”, explains IOC Director of Technology and Information Jean-Benoît Gauthier. “We could not run the Olympic Games without an extensive use of technology.”
The implementation and management of this vast operation requires a strong collaborative taskforce of experts and technical teams from various fields. “There are approximately 3,000 people from the Organising Committee (OCOG), the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the TOP technology partners and local technology partners, all working in close collaboration on technology at the Games”, outlines Jean-Benoît Gauthier.
“The IOC begins working with the Organising Committee approximately five years prior to the Games. We start by reviewing its strategic technology plan to ensure it is aligned with our objectives, and those of all our technology clients, like the International Sports Federations, press, and broadcasters via OBS (Olympic Broadcasting Services). We also, for example, assist them in selecting their telecom partners, we choose long-term worldwide partners, such as Atos, Omega, Panasonic, Samsung and GE, to deliver critical systems and services for the Games, and we help to guide the organisers as they work on selecting their local partners like crucial telecom partners.”
The different technology partners all have a very important and specific role at the Games, from integrating and securing the solutions, providing mobile devices, televisions and electronic equipment to bringing professional timekeepers for the timing, scoring, display and distribution of results.
“They bring their best knowledge and solutions in their fields of expertise. Sochi 2014 is then ultimately responsible for delivering a transparent technology solution to all the stakeholders.”
Overcoming unique obstacles
In terms of scale, the Olympic Winter Games present fewer challenges than the summer editions but weather conditions such as heavy snowfall can present a risk as it impacts on venue delivery and strongly impact competition schedule.
The IOC Director of Technology and Information explains: “The biggest challenge for the technology teams at the Games is the same as for everyone else, they need to make sure that the necessary infrastructure to run the Games, such as telecom networks and energy provision, is ready and operational on time.”
With people needing to be constantly connected, everywhere, and via multiple devices, mobility is pushing technology to new limits. “Equipment may have to be deployed in areas where usually you have no technology or connectivity. There is also a strong cybersecurity approach, and a need to be able to react quickly as well as provide timely and accurate information to the world via our stakeholders, the websites and social media”, continued Gauthier.
Technology is therefore a crucial part of the central nervous system of the Games, which enables people to benefit from modern infrastructure, precise and prompt results, and to have a fantastic Olympic experience from anywhere in the world.