Atos Origin's Olympic goal: invisibility

Systems integrator Atos Origin's success at the Beijing Olympics will be measured by its anonymity, not popularity

The presence of top Olympic sponsors, especially Adidas, Coca-Cola, and McDonald's, is evident throughout Beijing. But for official systems integrator Atos Origin, success at the Beijing games will be measured by anonymity, not popularity.

"The gold medal for Atos is not to be visible at all," said Philippe Germond, the company's chairman and CEO, in an interview at the Technical Operations Center, the IT headquarters for the games. "If we pop up, then something happened that was not planned."

[ For more news about IT at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, check out InfoWorld's special report. ]

"It's not a question of marketing and publicity, we are not a consumer company," Germond said, regarding Atos' involvement in the Olympics. However, the company's operations there help to demonstrate its competence in large-scale, mission-critical projects, and serves as a showcase both for Chinese government partners, Chinese companies, and for European partners.

Germond said that for the games' first four days, everything was running smoothly. The biggest surprise so far has been the accreditation of almost 400,000 personnel, including athletes, sponsors, volunteers and Olympic officials, double what Atos had been expecting.

The Olympics is different from other Atos projects because normally the company is not called upon to provide consulting, services and systems integration, said Jeremy Hore, chief integrator for the Beijing games. Also, "we're integrating so many suppliers we have no control over," he said.

Because official Olympic suppliers must be used for their designated service or product areas, vendors are not chosen for the Olympics the same way they are for other projects.

"You can't use the contract and incentives to motivate people in the same way," Hore said. However, he noted that all the commitment to success at the Olympics provides a lot of motivation in a way not normally seen in other projects.

With a commitment that currently runs through the London games in 2012, Atos is already looking ahead to both that event and the Vancouver winter games in 2010, where over 50 people are already working, Germond said.

Hore sees potential changes to data feeds from the venues to customers, including tracking of athletes using GPS devices for events like road cycling and kayaking. He said that the open-source platform used for the Games Management Systems, which covers logistics like accommodation, accreditation and transportation, has proven robust, and that the use of open-source software will likely increase.

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