ECONOMY

Schlumberger to create a digital city for the Athens 2004 Games

Creating a digital city from scratch is no easy task. Not when it involves 10,000 computers, 450 servers, 2,400 Intranet terminals, 13,000 terminals and PCS phones, 9,000 two-way radios and 2,000 fax machines and copiers – all hooked up for the sole purpose of making sure that the world’s most-watched sports event goes off without a hitch, on the IT side at least. The volume of the equipment required to provide the IT infrastructure for the Olympic Games is definitely mind-boggling by any standard. And there lies the challenge, says Aris Seitanides, central operations manager for Schlumberger, the company providing the technological support for the 2004 Olympic Games. He says explaining the complexity of the IT infrastructure to Greek companies has been a major challenge. «The infrastructure for the Games is quite elaborate and complicated. Communicating our architecture has taken a bit longer than it would have taken otherwise. This is because the complexity of the project is not initially apparent to people who have not done this before,» he says. Seitanides says a similar problem cropped up in Salt Lake City, where Schlumberger also delivered the IT infrastructure for last year’s Winter Olympic Games. The summer Olympic Games, however, are far more complex than the winter event. With 28 sports organized into 37 disciplines and 300 sports events taking place in nearly 60 venues, the IT power required is two to three times that utilised in Salt Lake City. The 2002 Winter Games, in comparison, offered just seven sports covering 15 disciplines which were carried out in about 40 venues. The technical challenge has been to make sure that local suppliers understand that the equipment should be standardized and using a uniform platform that will be valid to the end of the Games. Seitanides says the learning process took some time, but Greek suppliers have since then caught on to the philosophy and the size of the Olympic Games. Key to this has been Schlumberger’s IT aggregator approach, a strategy that was tried out successfully in Salt Lake City. «What we do is take off-the-shelf solutions for hardware, services and software not produced by us and integrate them into a turnkey solution. In other words, we take generic products and services. The difference with the turnkey solution used in previous Olympic Games is that this guarantees greater consistency in terms of results,» Seitanides stresses. It also eliminates the problem of hardware becoming obsolete even before the Games are over. Equally important, the aggregator strategy means IT solutions can be passed onto the next Games, reducing both costs and risks. Seitanides says the IT project is on schedule despite the delay in selecting suppliers at the beginning. Organizing committee Athens 2004 had initially hoped that a sponsor would show up. In the end, it purchased the equipment with its own funds. With security a paramount concern since the September 11 attacks, Schlumberger has designed its own system called the DeXa Suite of Services that deploys preventive measures against both physical and cyber attacks on the Games’ IT infrastructure. The real test for the IT system comes in August, when eight sports events are due to be tested out. The final technical rehearsals on the IT infrastructure focusing solely on the technical side are scheduled in April and June next year, on the eve of the Games. Schlumberger doesn’t anticipate any problems as much of the technology has already been tried out successfully at Salt Lake City, says Seitanides.