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


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  • Integration test lab

    Integration Test Lab
    One major part of LOCOG's IT infrastructure that will have completed its work come 'Games-time' is the Integration Test Lab (ITL). In this Canary Wharf location, some 800 PCs and 130 tower-format servers (mostly Gateway GT350F1 systems) are grouped into event-related 'cells' devoted to many thousands of hours of tests of timing, results and information systems.

    Much of the current activity involves 'test events' — which can be proper championships, invitation events or desk-based simulations — where the relevant ITL cell equipment is packed up and shipped to the venue (unless it's a simulation), and then returned for post-event review. As of early December, 20 test events have been completed, from a total of about 40. Once technical rehearsals are complete, the equipment will be relocated to the event venues and the ITL will fall silent.

    Acer's Trainor was keen to point out that "this is not a new technology showcase for us": the most important factor is that the hardware infrastructure is solid, reliable and has been thoroughly tested — by Atos and LOCOG, as well as Acer itself. To counter potential problems, every cell's 'games' server has a mirror, with a 'cold spare' as further insurance.

    Photo credit: Charles McLellan

  • Commentator Information System

    Commentator Information System (CIS)
    For broadcasters, a key tool will be the Commentator Information System (CIS), which is a statistician's dream. Available on some 1,500 Acer touchscreen PCs, the Atos-developed CIS integrates timings and results for 36 disciplines almost instantaneously with a vast database of information relating to each event and its history. Any commentator should be able to sound well-informed with the CIS at their fingertips.

    Photo credit: Charles McLellan

  • Technology Operations Centre

    LOCOG's equivalent of NASA's Mission Control is the Technology Operations Centre (TOC), which is housed in the same Canary Wharf location as the ITL. We were only allowed to press our noses against the TOC's glass wall, which accounts for the reflections in the above photo. What we didn't see — or even learn the location of — is LOCOG's primary datacentre, which houses Acer (Altos R270m2) and Gateway (GR380F1, GR585F1) rack servers, along with Hitachi (AMS2100, AMS2500) SAN storage systems.

    At 'games-time', the TOC will be staffed around the clock by some 450 technicians, monitoring IT security, telecommunications, power and event results systems.

    Photo credit: Charles McLellan

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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.

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