It's an understatement to say that pulling off a successful Olympic Games requires a seamless information technology (IT) system.
With the world as an audience, allowing mistakes or delays is simply "not an option," said Patrick Adiba, executive vice president of Olympics and Major Events at Atos Origin, a French IT services company.
Atos Origin will integrate and manage the IT system for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The company first started developing software for the Olympic Games in 1992. It went on to win an international tender and was awarded the technology partnership contract in 2000 for four consecutive Games, starting with the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City in the United States.
In recognition of Atos Origin's spotless record in handling the world's largest IT-related sports contract, the company's contract was recently extended until the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Adiba said the International Olympics Committee (IOC) had a number of reasons for choosing Atos Origin for the job.
"We share a lot of values for long-term partnership, knowledge transfer and teamwork," he said.
Knowledge transfer is a key characteristic of Atos Origin's projects.
"From one Games to another, we try to re-use as much as we can," including software and processors, said Adiba. The company re-deploys people and documents all lessons and good practices to accumulate experience.
"Our role is not only to provide technology, but also to transfer knowledge from one (local) committee to another," he said.
Knowledge transfers for the Beijing Games started as early as 2003, when Atos Origin held meetings with the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) and conducted workshops with local partners.
Within a week of the end of the Athens Olympic Games in September 2004, the team was moving on to Beijing. On-site work started immediately thereafter.
Atos Origin has done much to assist the BOCOG, said Shen Lixia, deputy division chief of the BOCOG Technology Department.
"They have a strong team working with us to develop the Games' management system and information diffusion system and to make plans for IT operations and integration They also shared with us a lot of documents and statistics from the previous games. It has been particularly helpful for us," Shen said.
"The biggest challenge for the 2008 Olympics Games is its complexity," said Jeremy Hore, chief integrator for the Olympic Games at Atos Origin.
For example, more than 10,500 athletes and 21,500 media representatives attended the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. To meet that challenge, Atos Origin deployed a 3,400-strong team to operate 10,500 computers and 4,000 result system terminals, which monitor individual events.
The IT operation for the Beijing Olympic Games is expected to be of an even larger scale.
To start with, the 2008 Olympic Games will hold events in six cities outside of Beijing. Hong Kong will host the equestrian events, while sailing, beach volleyball and some swimming competitions will be held in Qingdao, Shandong Province. Preliminary soccer matches will be held in Shanghai, Tianjin and Qinghuangdao in Hebei Province, as well as in Shenyang, Liaoning Province.
In addition, a huge audience spread across the entire country will be watching the games.
"There are thousands of devices, computers and servers, lots of systems Yet everything has to be ready on August 8, 2008, and then run flawlessly for the next 17 days," said Hore. "There is no other event that's so critical and so complex at the same time."
A core team of several hundred people will work on getting the Beijing project up to speed. And when the Olympic Games actually begin, about 4,000 experts and volunteers will be carrying out IT-related tasks, said Adiba.
Atos Origin's team enjoys a cordial relationship with BOCOG, said Shen.
"So far, Atos Origin has sent a 52-member team to work with us at the BOCOG. These people come from about 10 countries. Still, we have very close cooperation and are working as one team to deliver technology systems and support for the Games. We are very happy to work with them," she said.
Hore said the design phase of the operation had ended and that the building and testing stage was already underway.
Starting in July next year, the Atos Origin team will run one actual competition for each sport to test the system, said Adiba.
Source: China Daily