Sports Technology

Claire_RitchieA very interesting read by Jacquelin Magnay from 26th September Telegraph takes a forward look at what the London 2012 Olympics might be remembered for, citing communications as the biggest threat to the Capital’s Olympic legacy.

The biggest change within international sport events over the last decade is the immediacy with which fans and audiences now demand information. The exchange of opinion and breaking of news via social network and other websites puts efficient communication systems within the event venue at an absolute premium.

In Formula One, the only regular sporting event that can boast international audiences to rival those of the four-yearly Olympic Games or Football World Cup, there have been expressions of outrage by those within the media centre as journalist are being charged extortionate prices to have access to unreliable Wi-Fi and internet access.

The act of charging for internet use is one thing with the well-reasoned argument that journalists and media outlets should not have to pay to promote an event, or indeed the city/country in which the event is held, since the reason many countries host high profile sporting events is to generate tourism. What compounds the problem, however, is when the paid-for service doesn’t work, preventing media from doing their job and denying avid viewers around the world from the latest on-site development.

Jacquelin Magnay’s observation is entirely correct: “The London organisers haven't helped matters by charging each journalist £150 for computer access at the Olympic venues. So the first story written about London will be how WiFi and computer access is expensive.” That is precisely what will happen, so the organisers need to make sure that what is provided is of a Gold standard for the duration of the Games.

For a modern global sporting event, not having a fully functional communications infrastructure capable of withstanding an invasion of the world’s leading opinion forming sports journalists, legion of tweeting athletes and smartphone addicted spectators is akin to not filling the Aquatics Centre swimming pool with water.

Tier One partners BT have a key role to play as the official communications services partner for the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

BT’s activation message for their London 2012 partnership is Storytellers, proclaiming that the Games is “the most exciting opportunity for storytelling in our generation.” But this generation’s insatiable thirst for immediate news means that BT and the London 2012 Games have to provide the most substantial storytelling platform for any sporting event yet. If they can get it right, then London will provide international engagement like no other Olympics before it.

Whether communications will be London’s legacy – good or bad – remains to be seen, but the BT case study tells a good story and highlights just how important technology is in delivering a successful sporting event.

Technology demands (extracted from BT Case Study “Reaching for the Peak”)

The telecommunications services that BT will be providing for the London 2012 Games encompass WAN, MAN, LAN and TV and broadcast services. There will be some 80,000 voice and data outlets, 16,500 fixed telephone lines, 14,000 mobile SIM cards, and 1,000 wireless access points. BT will also host the London 2012 Games website, which will see an estimated 12 billion page views.

“An estimated six Gigabytes of multimedia data every single second will be generated by 14,000 cable TV outlets, 20,000 accredited media personnel, and Live Site screens in UK city centres,” says Stuart Hill. Forecasting expected traffic levels is a highly complex business. It’s not a matter of mirroring the usage profile seen at the Beijing Games four years ago. “Technology trends now are quite different,” explains Howard Dickel. “The pace of change means that there is, for example, vastly higher demand for data transfer with such things as real time video streaming.”

The core communications network consequently has more than adequate capacity: with 160Gbps between POPs and 20Gbps delivered to each of the venues. BT is also providing a dedicated communications network for Olympic Broadcaster Services London (OBSL), which is the host broadcasting organisation for the London 2012 Games. BT’s fibre based network will carry broadcast signals from and between the majority of venues to OBSL’s broadcast centre, for onward transmission to broadcasters across the world. This will enable billions of people across the globe to watch the Games in High Definition (HD). At present the broadcast and media network will cover 21 London 2012 UK locations, with the majority of services within the London area. In terms of the public network, triple 21CN metro nodes have been chosen to serve the Olympic Park, with WAN and MAN switching taking place in those resilient BT exchanges. Similarly, BT internet access POPs are duplicated, and IP telephony will be hosted at two separate networking centres.

As well as a massive fibre ring around the Olympic Park in East London, communications arteries will reach out as far as Hampden Park in the north, the Millennium Stadium in the west, Weymouth in the south, and Hadleigh Farm in the east – an estimated total of 94 separate competition and non-competition venues throughout the UK. All joined together with enough cable to stretch halfway from Beijing to London.

The communications infrastructure is based on tried technology. Howard Dickel concludes: “Trusted products and services are being used throughout, whether from BT or other London 2012 technology partners. That gives everyone the confidence that the expertise to implement it and, if necessary, repair it will be there throughout.


Claire Ritchie is the founder and Managing Director of Sine Qua Non International. Having had extensive experience in sales and marketing at Hewlett Packard along with sponsorship at Nortel Networks where she managed the multimillion dollar Formula One partnership with BMW Williams F1, she has used that knowledge and expertise over the last 10 years with clients at Sine Qua Non to develop winning partnerships for technology brands in F1, MotoGP and World Rally as well as other sports.

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