Olympic IT: the risk and the glory

Contrasting with the human sports stories of courage and excellence in Atlanta in 1996 were the human administration stories of poor organisation and stuff-ups. Prominent were the transportation problems - buses that didn't turn up, drivers who got lost, and even cases of athletes and journalists hijacking buses to get where they needed to be.

And caught up in it all was IBM, forced to endure a public relations nightmare that haunts it still on the eve of Sydney's September.

IBM first provided electronic data processing systems for the 1960 Olympic Winter Games in Squaw Valley, USA, but Atlanta was very different: IBM was given the contract to pull together all the required applications into common systems. It was to be a systems integration showpiece.

IBM's mission improbable was to record and distribute results for 271 events as they happened to officials, scoreboards, the media and millions of people logged onto the first official Olympic Web site. There was a set-in-concrete deadline, unlike most software projects, which are allowed to slip until they become deliverable. There were 7000 PCs, 250 networks and about 100 mid-range boxes to manage, under difficult environmental conditions - the Atlanta heat was expected to melt routers and hubs, so multiple backups were organised.

But history will record that during the first 10 days of competition, one of the three systems that Big Blue developed from scratch - the one for distributing competition results to the press - awarded medals that it shouldn't have and announced new world records when the old ones hadn't been broken. Some of the problems were reportedly due to human error, as staff shortages meant volunteers were asked to enter competition results. Hundreds of journalists were denied their stories, and IBM couldn't have picked a worse user group to annoy. The remainder of the systems that IBM built went about their jobs largely without problems.

After reportedly spending $US80 million in 1996, the wash-up was a soiled reputation for a very large computer company. Then IBM had a problem-free Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998, setting all sorts of records for Web page serving along the way.

The moral of the story? When it works you're an IT star; when it doesn't, you have to wait four years to soothe the pain.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

MARK STAFFORD

PC World
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?