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Forget Cool--Reliability Reigns At Games

100,000 hours of testing and 500 what-if scenarios later, Olympics IT managers are ready for the games to begin

Wow Factor

Yet the approach to IT isn't entirely staid. For all the need for sturdiness, planning, and backup, Olympic sponsors also see the games as an opportunity to showcase the convenience and wow factor of new products and brands. A Samsung-Telecom Italia Group collaboration will show the first working European demonstrations of a fledgling wireless technology, while Panasonic will provide more than 200 plasma televisions for Turin's main press center.

Turins Stadio Comunale, Where Opening And Closing Ceremonies Will Take Place

Turin's Stadio Comunale, Where Opening And Closing Ceremonies Will Take Place
Lenovo will give coaches and athletes a chance to use the latest tablet PCs to prepare for events and surf the Web. Peter Laviolette, hockey coach of Team USA, has begun using Lenovo's ThinkPad X41 Tablet on the bench and during training to diagram and describe plays and positioning. Video capabilities will let Laviolette freeze images during games and draw on the tablet screen over those images to demonstrate and explain his diagrams.

Samsung will provide wireless communication for the games, but you won't find its involvement in the most critical parts of the infrastructure. Atos Origin and the Organizing Committee feared possible jammed wireless signals and other security issues. "It's just a matter of classifying what's critical and what's nice to have," says Atos Origin's Philipps.

Samsung has been a wireless partner for the Olympic Games since 1998. The company says mobility will become increasingly important to smooth Olympic operations. "We're proud to be developing state-of-the-art wireless technology that's helping redefine the way the Olympic Games are managed," Kitae Lee, president of Samsung's Telecommunications Network Business, says in an E-mail.

The company will outfit more than 8,000 Olympic officials with Samsung's newest mobile phone, the SGH-D600. These Bluetooth-enabled, 2-megapixel camera phones include video messaging, 384-Kbps data connectivity, an E-mail client, and voice-recognition technology. They will run Wireless Olympic Works, a private network that will let users receive current information, including results and highlight photographs, while on the move. "We developed Wireless Olympic Works with a belief that the power and flexibility of mobile devices makes them ideally suited for managing major events such as the Olympic Games," Lee says. The system was first used in Athens, but Samsung improved it for Turin to make information more accessible and automatically updated. Leading up to the games, the network is sending real-time information on the Olympic torch relay to organizers.


Snowboard Half Pipe

Snowboard Half Pipe
Also in the nice-to-have-yet-not-critical category is a demonstration of WiBro, medium-range wireless broadband and South Korea's cousin to WiMax. Telecom Italia, which is Turin's telecom provider, says its WiBro telephony 4G is a full two generations beyond the capabilities of most of today's cell phones. This demonstration will be the first time WiBro has been offered in Europe--only 50 Olympic VIPs will have access to Samsung WiBro cell phones. Even in fast-moving cars, users will get uninterrupted service of up to 20 Mbps when in range. They'll be able to hold multimedia mobile conferences and will have push-to-video service.

Cool, but not critical. Athletes may have gotten to the Olympics by not playing it safe, pushing themselves to what they thought were their limits and then pushing some more. But the risk-taking will be left to them. When four years of anticipation end in 16 crucial days in February, IT is the one area where safety and stability lead to victory.