The 2012 Olympics: tech on a huge scale


When you’re sitting in front of your widescreen HD television in July 2012 to enjoy two weeks of the 2012 Olympic Games, spare a thought for the huge technology infrastructure that will enable you to get images and sound as well as up-to-the-minute instant results, rankings and other metrics about each and every event, the participants and more, all without a second thought.

Mike Butcher interviews Gerry Pennell, CIO of London 2012, who provides some choice insights into the scope and scale of what he’s aiming to deliver between now and the opening ceremony at the London stadium on July 27, 2012 – that’s 288 days from now.

[…] people live tweeting a race is less of an issue to him than making sure the media gets all the results of the events in realtime. A lot of new software architecture has been created for this for the Olympics and there’s going to be a new Olympic Data Feed, an XML feed for the media and rights holders, which subsequent events will make use of. A new Commentator Information System (CIS) means realtime results rather than TV cameras picking up crowds cheering before the results appear on screen.

“We’ll also be developing some iOS, Android, RIM and Windows 7 applications [to] deliver various things” he says, adding that more will be revealed about this apps in due course.

[…] The sheer scale of the tech aspects of the Olympics have to be read to be believed.

The 16 days of the Olympics games and 12 days of the Paralympics will see 450 technologists keep 180 servers and 1160 PCs and laptops running 24/7. There are 92 buildings to be connected and BT is investing 640,000 man hours in the project. A volunteer portal created by Atos Origin will manage volunteer staff of up to 70,000 during the games. A radio trunked network from British company Airwave will will be used by stewards and the emergency services, and will act as a backup mobile network if anything goes wrong.

(Also read London warned Olympic games may mean mobile phone ‘capacity crunch’ in the Guardian last month.)

Worldwide IT partner Atos Origin says the first IT professionals are already working full time to design the IT infrastructure and systems that will process the accreditation badges for the 200,000 members of the Olympic Family; manage staffing rotas and deliver the results to the world in less than a second.

They add:

For the London 2012 Games, we predict that technology will play a bigger role in two areas. Firstly, in improving access to information as audiences worldwide expect more detailed and colourful information to be delivered, as it happens, to an increasingly complex network of channels. Secondly, the technology infrastructure will also enable a sustainable Olympic Games.

Think also of the opportunity for terrorists to cause disruption on a global scale: massive denial of service attacks, for instance, or introducing viruses or malware into the computer systems. Part of all the preparations include preparations now for cyber attack tests for the games’ computer systems that will take place next year.

Maybe the success of it all will be judged by how you don’t think about all that effort in the background leading up to the events next year.

Seamless is how it should be so you can concentrate on the sport.

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Mezzo@band hire

    It sounds fantastic, but what we do not want is the disaster that we saw when terminal 5 opened in 2008 and many basic functions did not work on the day and it became a global embarrassment for the UK.

  2. Dan York

    Sadly, though, the London Olympics will NOT measure up to what the Chinese did in 2008. The London games will not use IPv6 for the network:

    Sadly, the UK has ceded this technological leadership to the Chinese in 2008 and to the Russians who are already planning to have an IPv6-based network for the 2014 Winter games. Too bad, because it was a great opportunity for the UK to show how they are ready for the next generation Internet. I do understand their comment about “operational certainty”… but it seems the Chinese had no problem with that. :-)

    More commentary here:

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