Watching the spectacular 2004 Olympic Games opening ceremony on TV last night got me thinking about the organization behind it all. The sheer feat of putting together the 2½ hour event deserves admiration and congratulations to everyone involved for its success.
72,000 people in the new olympic stadium, representatives of the teams from 202 countries and an estimated global TV audience of 4 billion enjoyed a phenomenal event that was uplifting, emotional and testimony to the possibilities of collective human endeavour.
While organizing the opening ceremony was a feat in itself – 2,500 performers with rehearsal time of 600 hours over 85 days, according to the BBC report – one of the things that’s caught my attention is the technology infrastructure behind the scenes that will support the games and what you see and hear on TV and radio or read in print media and on websites.
The lead technology partner is Atos Origin, a French-based IT services and solutions company with annual revenues of more than EUR 5 billion. They lead a consortium of other technology companies supplying 10,500 PCs, PDAs and other computing devices, 1,000 servers, 23,000 phones, 2,500 intranet terminals, 13,000 mobile phones, 4,000 printers and all the timing and scoring to run the games. Atos Origin acts as global integrator, bringing hardware, software, applications and networking equipment together in a secure environment.
Atos Origin has developed a system to display results in a fraction of a second, before the broadcasters even hear the roar of the crowd. There are 1,500 terminals at 20 games venues available to the 21,500-strong press corps. A centralized database relays event data and results to the Athens 2004 website, world press agencies, Internet data feed and Olympic Games officials. Over 50 million pages of qualified results are printed and delivered to Olympic officials over this essential system.
So when you’re watching an event on TV during the next two weeks, and the commentator suddenly reels off detailed facts and figures relating to what you’re watching, it doesn’t mean he has an amazing memory. He’s just plugged into Info2004, an intranet with more than 50,000 pages of information, 11,000 biographies and historical results dating back to the first modern Olympics, held in Athens in 1896, that’s available to journalists, athletes and International Olympic Committee officials.
This is some organization!
Atos Origin – Welcome to The Atrium: The Athens Experience – take an interactive tour of the main technology sites that power the 2004 Olympic Games and meet some of the technology experts who make IT work.
Athens 2004 Olympic Games official site