IT at Beijing Olympics to cost more than £200m

With the London Olympics less than five years away, the price tag for IT and communications for next year’s Beijing Olympics is now being put at around £200m.

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With the London Olympics less than five years away, the price tag for IT and communications for next year’s Beijing Olympics is now being put at around £200m.

And live testing on the systems for the Games, which will run from 8 to 24 August next year, has now begun.

"To reduce risk, there will be a lot of tests before the games," said Hou Xinyi, deputy director of the technology department at the Beijing Organising Committee for the Games, which has taken the acronym BOCOG.

Hou might also have added that one risk not being taken this time around is the use of Windows Vista. It emerged last week that the organisers of the 2008 Olympics have snubbed Windows Vista in favour of Windows XP.

But with testing playing such a crucial role, it is perhaps understandable that tried and tested systems have been preferred. The IT systems for rowing and canoeing events that will be used for Olympics were in fact in use earlier this month for another event. The 2007 World Rowing Junior Championships which ran from 8 to 11 August, and all went off without a hitch.

And it is such testing in and out of competition that looks to hold the key to avoiding any mishaps when the Olympics finally gets underway. Each sport, from archery to basketball to sailing and weightlifting, is allocated its own set of IT gear, and each of those systems will be exhaustively tested between now and the start of competition.

Atos Origin is the supplier responsible for building the IT systems at the past few Olympic Games and it is similarly in charge of the design, build and operation of the IT systems in Beijing next year. Atos revealed ahed of the 2006 Games in Torino that its work on the IT systems had in fact started two and a half years earlier as it embarked on 100,000 hours of testing.

And the company has even more to do for a summer Olympics. Beijing and six other cities will host 302 sporting events next year, and the IT systems will have to track all aspects affecting the athletes: qualifications, transportation to competition sites, ensuring uniforms and equipment arrive on time, as well as tallying scores for press and spectators.

While the Games is on, 10,708 athletes from 203 countries will also have to be housed, fed and protected by a staff of workers who will need to be screened and accredited for security.

But IT will have an even bigger job than that. Alongside the athletes, nearly 20,000 reporters and other media will attend the Olympic Games, not counting workers and fans. All these communities will create demand for IT work, including venue administration, information distribution, network security, e-mail, Internet and mobile access to scores, logistics, commentator information systems and more.

Working alongside Atos is Lenovo, which has supplied laptop PCs, desktops, servers, printers and other gear to the Games, and has said its contribution totals 20,000 pieces of hardware. After the Olympics are over, BOCOG will be able to keep this gear, and is likely sell it or give it to charity, said Leon Xie, director of Olympic sponsorship for Lenovo. Around 400 Lenovo technicians will also be on hand at the Games.

The official website for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games has been built by Sohu and will be run by them.

In London, meanwhile, the Olympcis is already fuelling demand for IT contractors as the engineering projects associated with the Games begin to gear up.

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