IBM bows out on a high note

But according to Vickie Regan, vice president, IBM Sydney 2000 Olympics Technology, it's exactly those problems that have been keeping IBM and its 6000-strong team busy since the start of the Sydney Games.

Regan is responsible for IBM's Olympic operations from the performance of the software right down to the maintenance of hardware. She has spent the last two weeks working at SOCOG's Olympic Technology Command Centre (TCC) in Ultimo, monitoring the performance of IBM's various systems which integrate to create the Olympic technology system.

Located at SOCOG's headquarters, the TCC is the central point of contact for all of SOCOG's technology partners. The centre is designed to act as the support hub for technology staff located at Olympic venues throughout Sydney.

While the majority of the space houses IBM staff -- 400 workstations to be exact -- each technology partner, including Telstra, Samsung and Fuji Xerox, is represented in the centre. IBM and SOCOG staff monitoring the official website, http://www.olympics.com, are also located on the same site with website content provider Gadfly Media.

According to Regan, IBM has staff monitoring all its systems including the systems management tool, Tivoli, the Info 2000 intranet, the Commentator Information System (CIS), the Games Management System (GMS), and the results systems. Staff are also manning help desk phone lines and monitoring all of IBM's systems for quality control.

Large monitors and television screens, showing network performance, the daily schedule and feeds from each Olympic venue, adorn the walls of the centre which is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

On my visit to the TCC, a screen showing the large network grid is dotted with green boxes indicating the performance of each section of the complex Olympic network. Staff are enjoying live coverage of the men's road cycling race from a big screen and the atmosphere is calm and relaxed.

Thankfully for IBM, green is the colour people want to see. According to Regan, green means the networking is up and running, yellow indicates that a section has been taken down or shut down for a known reason and red indicates a problem.

IBM's hard work and preparation, in particular, the running of crucial test events for each sport during the lead-up to the Games seems to have paid off.

But according to Regan, most staff, who are rostered around the clock on shifts of up to 12 hours, have not been sitting around twiddling their thumbs.

Changes to competition processes and rules as well as weather-delayed schedules have kept the technology giant on its toes with on-the-spot changes necessary for some of its systems.

Regan described a scenario where on Sunday during the women's marathon event, one competitor was momentarily lost on the system when she removed her joggers and continued the race barefoot.

Transponders developed by the Olympic timing partner, Swatch, had been fitted to each competitors' shoes for tracking and timing purposes and linked to IBM's results system. In order to provide accurate information on the race, the competitor had to be traced manually for a period of time, Regan said.

On another occasion, part of the results system for women's gymnastics had to be changed when several competitors were given the opportunity to redo the vault apparatus after it was the discovered it had been set five centimetres too short.

"We have developed the results system according to rules (from sporting federations). When the rules changed we had to manage that," Regan said.

The issue, according to Regan, was making sure changes flowed through the entire system, including the web site, Info 2000 intranet system for media and officials, and the Commentator Information System.

And now despite the minor hitches, and with only three days to go, IBM appears to have achieved the seemingly impossible - a technology trouble-free Games.

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