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Tech Goes for Gold in Athens

By Cynthia L. Webb
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 18, 2004; 9:34 AM

The International Olympic Committee won't be handing out medals to the information technology team at the Athens games this week, but it's doubtful that the extravaganza would be a success without them.

French IT company Atos Origin is managing the IT infrastructure and information security, and is powering the PCs that send out event results. The company's "3,400-strong team of IT staff and helpdesk operators are pumping life into the massive computer network that is feeding scores and timing data to millions of sport fans. It is the services giant's first summer games, after acquiring Sema Group from Schlumberger earlier this year," Australian IT reported. "Atos Origin managing consultant for security David Mackay said the company had 900 Windows and Unix servers, 10,500 workstations and 4000 printers running on a network stretching across 60 venues, incorporating 300 routers and 200 switches," the article said.

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Filter looks at the day's top technology news through snapshots and analysis of what the world's media outlets are covering. Washingtonpost.com's new Mon.-Fri. feature is penned by technology reporter Cynthia L. Webb. If a technology story breaks, a company falters or triumphs, or there's a new trend in technology, Filter wants you to know about it.

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The Associated Press wrote about Atos's hefty workload last month. In addition to helping divvy up results from the Games, the company must ward off hacker attacks and computer viruses. "We can't let our guard down for even a moment," said Claude Philipps, the company's program director. The article also noted that Atos handled the same job at the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002: "The job description for Athens is essentially the same: providing sports results, tracking credentials, and distributing doping reports and other background information. But the intensity and interest makes the Summer Games a bigger show and a bigger target. Atos expects to deliver more than 50 million pages of results and statistics to Internet sites and on paper. Another 50,000 pages of material on the games and athletes will be available on an Intranet network."

CNBC's Squawk Box took a look at what a big deal it is to run the games' technology needs in a feature broadcast this morning. The "IT set up is so big, it could run a small country. In many ways, it is," CNBC reporter Mike Hegedus said in his introduction. Atos is running a supersized IT operation and helping push data to thousands of athletes, journalists and PCs that are a part of the games, the piece said. Atos also will manage the IT operations at the 2006 Winter Games, but Greece will get to keep the computers and other infrastructure that was put in place for the Summer Games, CNBC noted.
Australian IT: Atos Origin Team Dives Into Games
The Associated Press via the Boston Herald: Guarding Olympic High-Tech In Athens

Technology is helping with efforts to provide high-end security for thousands of participants, visitors and officials, the Associated Press reported. "Recent leaps in technology have paired highly sophisticated software with street surveillance cameras to create digital security guards with intelligence-gathering skills," the AP said. "The system -- developed by a consortium led by San Diego-based Science Applications International Corp., or SAIC -- cost about $312 million and took up a sizable chunk of Athens' record security budget of more than $1.5 billion. It gathers images and audio from an electronic web of over 1,000 high-resolution and infrared cameras, 12 patrol boats, 4,000 vehicles, nine helicopters, a sensor-laden blimp and four mobile command centers."
The Associated Press via CNN: Olympics Digital Security Unprecedented

Security is being monitored by virtual eyes in the sky, wire service Agence France-Presse reported. A high-tech blimp "equipped with high-resolution cameras and filled with 6 000 cubic metres of helium, is to patrol the Athens sky 16 hours a day during the August 13-29 Games, from an altitude of 1 200 to 3 400 metres. Anti-chemical detectors are also part of its fit-out. ... Hundreds of security cameras scattered throughout Athens are to feed image and sound to Olympic security command centre on the ground," the article said.
Agence France-Presse via South Africa's News24: Security Zeppelin For Athens

Technology has also transformed the way Olympic athletes stay on top of their game in preparation for and during the games. The Los Angeles Times explained more in an article from Colorado Springs, Colo., on Friday: "The U.S. Olympic Training Center here is bristling with laptops, cameras, PCs, sensors and wireless data transmitters designed to give U.S. athletes an advantage in Athens. Cutting-edge technology has also been installed in the U.S. Olympic Committee's two other training centers, in Chula Vista, Calif., and Lake Placid, N.Y. Long jumpers use the gear to download the last gold medalist's winning leap to compare with their own. Gymnasts can see why not gaining enough elevation or coming out of a tuck too early made them blow their dismounts. Soccer teams can stream video archives of an opponent's penalty kicks to seek clues about where a striker is likely to aim the ball."

More from the article: "Laptop-equipped coaches and athletes can connect wirelessly from a stadium or an airport lounge to servers in Colorado Springs and access statistics on thousands of athletes around the world. Even the U.S. Olympic Committee isn't sure how much is spent to keep American athletes technologically up to date. Dozens of governing bodies, covering sports as varied as archery and yachting, acquire their own computers and other gear, and no official keeps a tab on the total. The technological progress hasn't been universal. Competitors from many countries can't afford the basics, such as gymnasiums, pools and proper training shoes, let alone laptops, video cameras and cutting-edge software. The Olympic committee for Laos, for instance, can afford only a single notebook computer. So athletes from less-developed countries find themselves at a disadvantage even before the opening ceremonies begin tonight in Athens."
Los Angeles Times: Training Olympians Try Data Crunches (Registration required)

High-Tech Athletic Gear

Electronics Weekly reported today on a wearable computer for athletes, developed by researchers in Athens and at the University of Birmingham. The computer "can remotely monitor the performance of athletes. The computer is strapped to an athlete's chest and wrists and can track the acceleration, pace and body temperature of the wearer. In the case of a volleyball game a corresponding data collector in the ball sends information back to the receiver when hit by the player. Data is sent to a laptop over a radio link."
Electronics Weekly: U.K. Wearable Computer Debuts At Olympics

And sharks are providing inspiration for high-tech swimming gear. Swimsuit maker Speedo studied shark skin for its Fastskin swimsuits, the Daily Press of Hampton Roads, Va. reported. Swimmer phenom Michael Phelps is "wearing the bottom half of Speedo's sharkskin suit, which has ridged fabric to emulate tiny tooth-like shark scales called denticles. In the late 1990s, the Newport News shipyard asked [Mark Patterson, a professor who studies shark hydrology at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester Point], to study shark denticles to see if the same concept could help the shipyard build swifter carriers and submarines. It wasn't the first time local scientists had tried to apply shark anatomy to a vehicle."
Daily Press: Suit Helps Athletes Swim Like Sharks


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