Olympics moves into test phase

Beijing 2008 organizing committee and main IT services partner, Atos Origin, have officially completed the planning stage. Other tech vendors also gear up for the Games.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

The Beijing 2008 Olympics has reached another milestone in its preparations for the event, to be held in August next year.

The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) and IT services vendor Atos Origin have launched a facility dedicated to testing the IT infrastructure, IT security systems and key software applications for the games, the latter announced in a statement Tuesday. Atos Origin is the appointed partner to design, build and operate the IT infrastructure for the Olympic games in China.

According to Atos Origin, key applications that it has delivered are the Games Management Systems (GMS) and the Information Diffusion Systems (IDS). The GMS encompasses software tools to manage accreditation for athletes and officials, transportation and accommodation scheduling and medical records. The IDS is the central system that relays results, events and athlete information to officials, media and spectators worldwide.

The new integration test lab is the first of five key facilities that will provide technology support for, and during, the games. Its opening marks the completion of the planning and development phase, according to Atos Origin. Other major facilities include: the technology operations or central command center, PC factory for the preparation of equipment before installation at over 60 venues, and standalone primary and back-up data centers.

Jeremy Hore, chief integrator for Beijing 2008 at Atos Origin, told ZDNet Asia in a recent e-mail interview that logistics-wise, it is "very challenging" to manage the IT systems consistently across such a large number of venues.

"Competition will be held in a total of seven cities, including Hong Kong for equestrian, and Qingdao for sailing," Hore said. "This puts an additional requirement on the IT infrastructure to ensure the systems are fully integrated, and that we can deliver the results, real-time, to the world."

Open source and RFID
On the technology front, the Beijing Olympics is expected to feature several breakthroughs. These include the use of open source and RFID (radio frequency identification) technology.

Hore acknowledged that some open source components, "where they are proven and reliable", have been included into the IT systems for the games. Different software platforms have also been deployed, he added, which is "a similar approach taken by most companies".

Shen Lixia, division chief of BOCOG Technology, said the organizing committee is working on feasibility studies for the use of RFID technology in game tickets and accreditation cards.

"If it proves to be efficient [in its ability] to improve service and security and the risks are under control, RFID technology may be adopted for the games," Shen said, adding that the organizing committee's priority in adopting RFID or other new technologies is to ensure "secure and reliable technology services".

However, the organizing committee is clear about which technology will be left out of Beijing 2008. Because national standards for mobile TV and IPTV have yet to be established in China, Shen pointed out that there will not be plans to use these new technologies for the games.

Tech vendors gear up
Samsung and Lenovo, two of the Olympic global partners, are readying for further developments leading up to the games. Samsung has been involved in the Olympic movement since 1988 and supplied about 80,000 units of wireless communications equipment, while Lenovo's foray into the Olympics began February 2006 during the winter games in Turin, Italy.

Both vendors declined to give specifics. However, Samsung indicated that it will make a major announcement on its Olympic involvement around May, while Lenovo said more details about the products and solutions developed for the games will be available "in phases, starting later this year".

According to Alice Li, Lenovo's vice president for Olympic marketing and head of brand communications in China, the hardware company has already supplied the BOCOG with "a large number of computers, servers and printers to support its administrative system". A team of Lenovo hardware engineers is also working on-site to finalize the hardware infrastructure encompassing desktops, notebooks and servers to be used at Beijing 2008.

Li said: "Lenovo's focus [moving forward] will be on the second round of product supply, working with BOCOG to select the most appropriate hardware technologies for the various IT applications in support of the Olympic Games." These will include planning for the dispatch of personnel as well as servicing work of the Olympic venues, she added.

Louis Kim, director of Olympic communications at Samsung Electronics, said Samsung has a representative office in the BOCOG and works closely with the Games' technology division. This year, Kim said, the company will hold a series of road shows across key cities in China to raise awareness about Samsung's involvement in the games.

Kim, who is based in Seoul but travels regularly to Beijing, is confident that China's choice of 3G standard will not affect Samsung's contributions to Beijing 2008. "We will work with whatever standards that China chooses to adopt with the applicable technology," he said.

Panasonic, another technology worldwide Olympic partner, did not respond to queries at press time.

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