The 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester are set to be a showcase of mobile technologies and IT strategies that could become a benchmark for government-backed large projects. The games are likely to be the biggest systems integration project ever in the UK, with projected ticketed spectators of one million, a TV audience of one billion and an estimated 140 million hits per day on its Internet site.
A key element of the project will be integrating wireless technologies, including WAP phones. "The world is changing around us with new technologies converging, and we have to try and predict that," said Manchester 2002 technology director, Andrew Marshall. "Instead of print and TV media, by 2002 you're going to have to satisfy consumer demand and provide showcases for technology sponsors. There will be practical deployments of wireless technologies," he said.
Third-generation cellular communications are unlikely to be in broad use, but Marshall is expecting a substantial amount of GPRS-class, or so-called 2.5G, phones.
There will also be no need for photographic development facilities for press. Instead, photographers will use ISDN-2 or other broadband lines to send digital images.
The sheer size of the scheme is also changing the way that project recruitment takes place. Instead of advertising for staff in specialist sport publications and through the sports education network, Marshall will use the Internet to canvass volunteers and other workers, and organise schedules with staff, athletes, the media and others across an intranet. The core Ethernet network is likely to use Windows NT 4.0 or 2000, with browser-based access to all data.
Manchester will partner with third parties, including the BBC, for news, ticketing and commerce on Web sites. It will also appoint a wireless technology sponsor, as well as wireline, IT and networking sponsors, although there won't be a single systems integration contract. "Although it's been traditional to engage with a systems integration partner, you can't just blame someone else. If I have an SI partner, what the hell do I do?" said Marshall.
IBM was widely criticised for technical infrastructure problems at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. "The event will be the showcase for UK PLC's technology aspirations, and the government will be watching carefully, so we don't want to screw up," he added.
With close government participation and the event coinciding with the Queen's Golden Jubilee, the event is likely to be a major attraction to IT sponsors.