Security fears mean Wi-Fi won't star at the Olympics

The International Olympic Committee doesn't believe wireless security is good enough for their IT set-up at Athens in 2004
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor

The team designing and implementing the IT infrastructure for the 2004 Olympic Games will not be incorporating Wi-Fi into the networks they are building due to security concerns.

In an interview with News.com, Claude Philipps -- the man leading the project -- explained that the decision has been taken not to use 802.11b because those involved believe the technology is not secure enough.

"The IOC (International Olympic Committee) thinks -- and we agree -- that the security is not major enough to be used for such an event. I think the trend is in favour of wireless, and we'll be able to do that at some future games, but not now," said Philipps, chief technology integrator for Schlumberger, which has the contract to organise IT resources for the Olympics.

Philipps explained that security is a top priority for the Games organisers, as the networks will be carrying very sensitive information about both athletes and VIPs attending the competition.

Wi-Fi was also excluded from the IT network at the 2002 winter games in Salt Lake City for the same reason. Despite that decision, it was still used by one group of competitors -- the biathletes, whose split times were detected and relayed to their coaches by wireless.

Back in 2002, reports claimed that the IOC had decided to give Wi-Fi the cold shoulder until at least 2008 due to concerns over both security and performance. This was subsequently denied.

Setting up the IT systems for the 2004 Olympics is a mammoth task, made more challenging by the fact that the delivery deadlines are effectively fixed in stone. There's no opportunity to push back delivery dates -- everything has to be ready before the event begins.

The system being built by Philipps' team will include some 10,000 desktop PCs and 850 servers. To avoid the possibility of a glitch in the Greek electricity network causing chaos, diesel generators are being deployed to complement uninterruptible power supplies.

There appears to be no place for open-source software either. Instead, Sun's Solaris operating system is being deployed.

Read the full interview with Claude Philipps here.

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