IT at Beijing Olympic Games to cost $400 million

Testing has already started on systems for next year's biggest sporting event, using the expertise of thousands of IT workers

The price tag for IT and communications at the world's biggest sporting event will run to around $400 million and use the expertise of thousands of IT managers and engineers.

Live testing has already started on systems for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, which officially run from Aug. 8-24.

"To reduce risk, there will be a lot of tests before the games," said Hou Xinyi, deputy director of the technology department at the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, which has taken the acronym, BOCOG.

The IT systems for rowing and canoeing events that will be used for Olympics were used last week for another event. The 2007 FISA World Rowing Junior Championships, which ran from Aug. 8-11, went off without a hitch.

"All the IT systems worked smoothly," said Hou.

Testing is key to the success of the IT systems during the games. Each sport, from archery to basketball to sailing and weight lifting is allocated its own set of IT gear, and each of those systems will be tested between now and the start of the games.

Atos Origin was responsible for building the IT systems at the past few Olympic Games and is responsible for the design, build, and operation of the IT systems in Beijing next year. Atos has said work on the IT systems used for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy, started two and a half years before the event and underwent 100,000 hours of testing.

The company has its work cut out for it. Beijing and six other cities will host 302 sporting events next year, meaning the IT systems will have to track all aspects affecting athletes: qualifications, transportation to competition sites, ensuring uniforms and equipment arrive on time, as well as tallying scores for press and spectators.

Within that time, 10,708 athletes from 203 countries will also have to be housed, fed, and protected by a staff of workers who will need to be screened and accredited for security.

But IT will have an even bigger job. Nearly 20,000 reporters and other media will attend the Olympic Games as well as workers and fans. All will create demand for IT work, including venue administration, information distribution, network security, e-mail, Internet, and mobile access to scores, logistics, commentator information systems, and more.

Volunteers and sponsorship will play a major part in the Olympic Games. There will be 2,000 to 3,000 paid IT workers at the Beijing games, and 3,000 volunteers, according to Hou.

In addition, each company sponsoring the games will supply technicians and products for free, such as Omega on timing and scoring, the Eastman Kodak on film and photographic equipment, and Samsung Electronics on mobile phones and equipment, among others.

Lenovo, which is supplying laptop PCs, desktops, servers, printers, and other gear, said its contribution totals 20,000 pieces of equipment. After the Olympic Games are over, BOCOG will keep the gear and likely sell it or give it to charity, said Leon Xie, director of Olympic sponsorship for Lenovo. Around 400 Lenovo technicians will be on hand at the games.

The official Web site for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games was built and is being run by Sohu.com.

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