Beijing prepares for 'High-tech Olympics'

Tthe IT systems implemented for an Olympics can transform a city.

All over Beijing, Olympic countdown clocks tick off the seconds that China has awaited for seven years: the moments until Aug. 8, 2008, at 8:00 pm, when the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics begin.

Perhaps the most important competition involving the Olympics will not take place during 16 days in August, but occurred in 2000 and 2001, when Beijing challenged Istanbul, Osaka, Toronto and Paris for the right to be the host city. Seven years and 26 days before the opening ceremonies would begin, Beijing was awarded the 2008 Olympic Games. Like firing a starter's pistol, the award began the race to build the IT infrastructure to stage and support one of the world's largest and most watched sporting events.

One of the three themes of the Beijing Olympics is to make it a "High-tech Olympics." According to the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG), the event will incorporate "the latest domestic and international scientific and technological achievements" and serve as "a window to showcase the city's high-tech achievements and its innovative strength." With a published operating budget of US$2 billion, BOCOG has estimated the technology portion of the budget at over $400 million for 449 science and technology projects, although it has not delineated what those projects are.

Although the systems are designed specifically for a large sporting event, those implemented for an Olympics can transform a city -- often the impetus for an Olympic bid itself. After the 16 days of competition -- followed by 11 days of the Paralympic Games starting Sept. 6 -- what will be the legacy of the Games' IT infrastructure for Beijing?

For a man in his position, Jeremy Hore seems awfully calm. A native of Australia, the chief integrator of the 2008 Olympics did not work on the Sydney Games but spent six months with his company, Atos Origin, working on the Athens Games, and another six weeks for the 2006 winter Games in Turin.

Preparing for the Olympics is like no other feat of project management. "The most difficult thing is that the deadline is 100 percent fixed. On other projects, you can delay if you really need to, even if it has a bad impact."

Beyond that, its scale is unlike any other event. The soccer World Cup takes place over a slightly longer period and sometimes a wider area, but far fewer athletes participate in only 64 events, and because there is only one sport with a single clock to monitor game time, the data requirements are much lower.

In contrast, the summer Olympics features 28 sports and 302 events. They will be spread out over seven cities, as far north as Shenyang, down to Hong Kong in the south. The Games involve 75 venues, 39 of them for competition. About 200,000 accreditations will be issued for athletes, officials, media and others, and during the Games, more than a million pages of information will be served each day.

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