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Behind the scenes: Olympic tech

Take a guided tour of the Sydney Olympics Technology Command Centre
Written by Megan McAuliffe, Contributor
Fort Knox? No, it's the Sydney 2000 Olympic Technology Command Centre -- an anonymous city location with a security force so hefty that gaining entry involves bag searches, metal detectors and an escort through various security doors. From behind glass walls, visitors in the Tech Command Centre can see 450 PCs and 50 servers humming away, with 300 people guarding over them intently, monitoring for signs of a hiccup in the complex network running the entire Olympic Games information systems. According to IBM's critical situation manager for the Games William Asbury -- who has worked on two Olympics prior to the Sydney Games -- it's the best technology infrastructure the Games have seen to date. IBM handles three main components of the Games from the Tech Command Centre, the management system, the results system and the info system. The info system will service the Olympic family with Games information over the 17 days. The results system is responsible for collecting data from the sporting events to be fed to the various media outlets, the Olympic Games Web site, and to the Central Results System (CRL) -- used by 1,000 broadcast media situated at the games. Overall, 6,000 people scattered throughout the country are working to keep the information lines open during the Games. There are displays highlighting the games schedules, events and systems in the Tech Command Centre -- among them are 24 TV monitors broadcasting live feeds from the venues. One display is a map of the PCs situated around the country. It is monitored constantly by the IBM team, which looks out for green squares -- representing PCs -- which may turn yellow, warning a problem has been detected and requires attention, and then red, meaning the PC has crashed. Asbury told ZDNet Australia that the Web site for the Winter Olympic Games held in Nagano had a total of 650 million hits. IBM are expecting an astonishing 6.5 billion hits to the Web site for the Sydney Games. "The Internet is the only way you can get all the results, you won't see the whole lot through TV broadcasts. Some lesser sports will be ignored as broadcasters don't have the time to show everything," Asbury said. "People can get on to the Internet to learn about their specific area of interest," he said. According to Asbury the surge in traffic to the Web site will also be due to international time differences, such as 15 hours between Sydney and the west coast of the United States. The technology for the Olympic Games in Sydney has undergone a year of rigorous testing, which according to Asbury is the main difference between the Sydney Games and those in Atlanta. "We've had two technical rehearsals, which ran over three days, assimilating races and printing results," he said. Take me to Sydney 2000: coverage from this year's Olympics
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