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Olympics CIO Gerry Pennell aims for personal best

Mark Chillingworth | July 20, 2012
Just as an athlete who has achieved success at the Commonwealth Games would grasp the opportunity to take on the wider world at the Olympics, so is it with Gerry Pennell, CIO for the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (Locog).

"I won't guarantee it will be perfect, but it will be just fine," Pennell says with studied conservatism.

A quarter of the Locog budget has been attributed to technology. Pennell's team has put technology into over 100 competition venues, not only in London but also in football stadiums in cities such as Coventry, sailing venues in Weymouth and cycling venues in Surrey and Essex.

The technology landscape includes a broadcast centre, the Olympic village, a central control centre, transport depots serving the park, Heathrow Airport, temporary venues like the All England Club Wimbledon, Earls Court Exhibition Centre and some of the training venues.

The Olympics will have its own VoIP telecoms network, local area network (LAN), wide area network (WAN) and datacentre to underpin the results and athlete accreditation.

It will support 100 specialist applications for managing the arrival and departure of athletes, media, staff, volunteers and spectators.

It also has to account for media technologies that create graphics, run the video boards, provide simultaneous interpretation and a closed-circuit TV network.

Some four billion TV viewers from around the globe are expected to watch the Games, and as a result the media IT requirement stands second on the podium of demands for Pennell.

His team delivers the flash quotes and the on-the-spot reactions of victor or vanquished to the media centre.

This is a service which has moved since the last Olympiad from being kiosk-based to browser-accessed.

The athlete's village has full wi-fi coverage and PCs are available to the competitors.

During the Olympics a 173-seat operations centre will receive feeds of every game taking place.

"Think Houston Mission Control," Pennell says of the Technology Operations Centre that goes into an Olympics.

In preparation for the Games, Locog has carried out test events and technical rehearsals using independent officials where elements of the systems are taken down in order to test responsiveness both of the technology and the operation.

"You need these test events to test the technology and for me there are a lot of operational things you discover might be in the wrong place, for example. You are building corporate learning. You wouldn't do a play without a rehearsal. As a result I am confident we can put on a great event.


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