London 2012: Why the Olympics CIO is preparing for the worst

Summary:Interview: Gerry Pennell on online attacks, apps, contactless payments and the games' tech legacy...

Interview: Gerry Pennell on online attacks, apps, contactless payments and the games' tech legacy...

When asked what nightmare scenarios keep him awake at night, Gerry Pennell, the man in charge of technology for the London 2012 Olympic Games, jokes: "At this stage we're all significantly tired that staying awake is not a problem".

Gerry Pennell CIO for Locog

Gerry Pennell, CIO for the London Olympics, says they will test hundreds of scenarios before the gamesPhoto: London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games

With less than a year to go before the Olympics opening ceremony, Pennell, CIO for the organisers of the London Olympics, has a team of 600 people working "flat out" on testing and preparing the technology for the games.

"The pace of delivery has picked up big time. We have been running the test events for the last three to four months - so it's becoming very real," he told at an event in London yesterday.

The games hit a milestone this week with the official unveiling of the Technology Operations Centre (TOC) - the London-based centre that will manage and monitor the Olympics systems that run the venues, record results and relay them to the rest of the world. The centre's 450 staff will work with the thousands of technical staff situated in the Olympic's 94 venues to make sure the technology works without a hitch.

Teams from London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Locog) and its technology suppliers are currently in the final stages of testing software and hardware before rolling it out to Olympic and Paralympic venues. Alongside this testing, tech teams are taking part in dummy runs of Olympic events and making sure the tech supporting each event performs as expected.

The real test of the Olympics technology will take place during three days of technical rehearsals in the months before the games begin. During these rehearsals, hundreds of different nightmare scenarios will be thrown at technical staff to see how they - and the infrastructure - cope.

"We will simulate cyber security problems and physical attacks, people will unplug cables and switch boxes off," Pennell said.

"We will throw hundreds of scenarios at the TOC over a three-day period - far worse I imagine than anything that will happen during the games. It is important to practice that crisis management, so if anything happens we will be ready."

Pennell stressed that the architecture of the Olympics systems had been built with security in mind.

"We keep mission-critical games systems isolated from other components of the network, particularly anything web-facing. It would be very difficult for any external attack to succeed."

He added that the games website's vulnerability to...

Topics: Tech Industry


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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