by Lafe Low

No False Starts Allowed: The IT Systems at the Olympics

Jan 15, 20022 mins
Data Center

Skiers, skaters and bobsledders from around the world arrive in Salt Lake City this month for their shot at Olympic gold, but another trained squad has been preparing there for more than three years. By connecting the 10 competition venues and all the noncompetition venues like the Olympic Village, media center and Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) headquarters, the Olympic IT team has deployed the largest network in Utah, says SLOC CIO Dave Busser, former vice president of technology planning and development at Cincinnati-based Convergys Corp. (For some network details, see “Wire and Ice,” this page.)

The 17-day-long Games begin on Feb. 8, and the systems for running the event have to be fully operational from day one. “When the Games begin we can’t be working through problems,” says Busser. The 400-member SLOC IT team supports the primary systems used to run the Games?not only the scoring and timing systems but also other essential networks such as the following.

c The Info 2002 system includes 800 kiosks for media, athletes and officials, located throughout the venues. Kiosks provide results, transportation schedules, weather reports and other information.

c The commentary information system (CIS) is for on-air commentators. “If you’re a broadcaster in a booth, you have two machines in front of you. One is a television set with a feed from your host broadcaster,” says Bob Cottam, chief integrator for SLOC’s primary IT partner, New York City-based SchlumbergerSema. “The other is a CIS terminal with a touch screen display that lets commentators pull up all the statistics and results [as the event unfolds].”

c The Games management systems run the behind-the-scenes operations, such as staffing, scheduling and accreditation, which tracks and validates the 70,000 accredited visitors, including athletes, coaches, family and press. It controls not only who can get into which venues and which areas within venues, it also interfaces with the State Department for background checks. Of note, the system hasn’t changed as a result of Sept. 11; security is always a priority for Olympic organizers.

The magnitude of the project has been the biggest challenge, says Busser. “The ability to effectively manage scope is absolutely critical,” he says. He did it by deploying systems far in advance and testing them like crazy. “We simply don’t have the luxury of pushing back the delivery date. It absolutely has to work.”