Technology and the Olympics: 2012 vs 1948

Technology and the Olympics: 2012 vs 1948

Summary: The 2012 London Olympics are approaching fast, and computer technology is absolutely critical to their success — unlike the last time the capital hosted the Games. Here is a tour of the Olympic Park and some of the back-end systems


 |  Image 2 of 9

  • Thumbnail 1
  • Thumbnail 2
  • Thumbnail 3
  • Thumbnail 4
  • Thumbnail 5
  • Thumbnail 6
  • Thumbnail 7
  • Thumbnail 8
  • Thumbnail 9
  • Olympic games logos

    Then and now
    Before 2012, we have to go back to 1948 to find the last time that the UK — then in an exhausted, near-bankrupt condition following World War II — hosted the Olympics, which had not taken place since the infamous 1936 Games in Hitler's Germany.

    The 64 years separating the so-called Austerity Games and the 2012 instalment have obviously seen many changes — although the "exhausted, near-bankrupt" diagnosis for the UK remains apt. One of the biggest changes since 1948 has, of course, been the rise of computer technology — a wartime invention that was beginning to take significant Baby steps in the wider world.

    ZDNet UK recently took a tour of the Olympic Park in Stratford, East London, and was also shown around the LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games) Integration Test Lab (ITL) and Technology Operations Centre (TOC) in Canary Wharf. The ITL/TOC tour was courtesy of worldwide Olympic partner Acer, which is providing computer equipment, services and technicians for the 2012 Games.

    Here's a summary of what we saw, interspersed with images from 1948, when broadcasting and information technology were very different.

    Photo credit: IOC

  • Olympic Park

    Olympic Park 2012
    The 2012 Olympic Park occupies 2.5 square kilometres of the Lower Lea Valley in East London, a run-down area flanked by the boroughs of Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Newham and Waltham Forest. This is a view of the Olympic Stadium and the Orbit Tower taken from the platform of Pudding Mill Lane DLR (Docklands Light Railway) station.

    The stadium's design includes a permanent 25,000-seat bowl surrounded by a demountable lightweight steel-and-concrete upper tier accommodating 55,000 spectators. After 'games-time' (one of several jargon phrases used by Olympics types), the stadium will be reconfigured for 'legacy' (there's another) usage, probably by West Ham FC.

    The structure to the right of the stadium is the Orbit Tower, designed by Anish Kapoor. This steel sculpture-cum-observation tower stands 115m high and is Britain's biggest piece of public art. It will remain on site as part of the 2012 Games's permanent legacy.

    Photo credit: Charles McLellan

  • Empire Stadium

    Empire Stadium, Wembley, 1948
    No new venues were built for 1948's Austerity Games — not even an Olympic Village for the athletes, who were housed in RAF camps (if male) and London colleges (if female). Athletes had to bring their own food, and travelled to and from the event venues on ordinary London buses.

    The centrepiece of the games was the 1923 Empire Stadium, famous for its 'Twin Towers', which was demolished in 2003 to make way for the current Wembley Stadium. This image shows British athlete John Mark carrying the Olympic flame past Organising Committee members at the opening ceremony.

    Photo credit: IOC

Topics: Servers, Reviews, Olympics 2012


Charles has been in tech publishing since the late 1980s, starting with Reed's Practical Computing, then moving to Ziff-Davis to help launch the UK version of PC Magazine in 1992. ZDNet came looking for a Reviews Editor in 2000, and he's been here ever since.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories


Log in or register to start the discussion