Celebrating 25 years of innovation at the Olympic Games

Posted on: August 1, 2017 by Marta Sanfeliu

It’s been a quarter of a century since a single flaming arrow lit the cauldron at the Olympic Games Barcelona 92 Opening Ceremony. It’s also been 25 years since Atos began its relationship with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), delivering IT services that underpin the content beamed out from the global sporting stage.

Barcelona is home to both of us, and enthralled by the magic captured on TV, we were both inspired to join Atos to ensure our Olympic journey could continue. That journey has taken us around the world as the Worldwide IT Partner for IOC – from Salt Lake City 2002, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and Vancouver 2010 to London 2012, Sochi 2014 and now PyeongChang to prepare for the Olympic Winter Games 2018. Here, we look back at how spectators’ experience of the Olympic Games has shifted since 1992, and how the technology that supports every service delivered during the events has evolved as a result.

Crowding around the family TV set

In 1992, families watched history be made and records be broken from the comfort of their living room. At the same time local and visiting fans filled the stadiums in Barcelona to watch the action live.

Fast forward 25 years, and spectators now expect so much more information to be made available to them; and they’re consuming the action across multiple devices at the same time. Not content with competition results alone being beamed to their tablets, TVs, and smartphones in real-time, spectators want information about the individual athletes competing, their vital stats and historic performances.

Multiple events are also being consumed at the same time – at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 last year for example, we saw many fans who were physically watching other events tune in to see Usain Bolt take his historic third consecutive gold medal for the men’s 100m sprint on their mobiles. And, as we look ahead to Tokyo 2020, who knows how consumers will be engaging with the content? For future Games, expect to see an increase in Virtual Reality (VR) experiences and holographs that enable spectators to not just see the events but feel them as if they are physically there.

This insatiable demand for content has had a profound impact on the back-end IT solutions that are deployed to deliver every service at the Games. The systems back in 1992 were based on mainframe technology, but since then, we’ve migrated them on to a client server application, a web-based environment and now Atos Canopy – our cloud platform. Next year’s Winter Olympic Games will be the first Olympic Games ever to be completely delivered in the cloud, radically changing the IT model from a ‘build each time’ to a ‘build once’ model.

A collaborative team effort

To prepare for PyeongChang 2018, we’ve had a core team based in the host city since 2014. The team work alongside the local Olympic committee on-site, as well as with teams based at a brand new Integration Test Lab (ITL) in Madrid and at the Central Technology Operations Center (CTOC) in Barcelona. Working on synchronized time zones (host city local time), these teams are responsible for remotely testing every single system set to go live ahead of the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games on 9th February 2018.

While previously these teams would have had to physically work in the same room together, migrating everything to a virtual environment has enabled us to be much more cost and time efficient. By the Opening Ceremony, we will have completed over 100,000 hours of testing to ensure that results can be delivered in real-time (0.3 seconds) to the world’s media for over 100 events. To ensure everything is ready, we have an extremely tight schedule to get everything live and tested. We are currently in the final phase of the implementation and will be testing systems one by one until December.

Winter sports beamed worldwide

With more content than ever before distributed to a growing audience across the globe, we’ve seen appetite for winter sports increasing exponentially. We’ve been in discussions with broadcasters already in countries where there hasn’t traditionally been demand for winter sports, who want to beam the events out to local audiences for the first time.

The sense of achievement we’ll get on completion of the four-year project cannot be underestimated. We’re incredibly proud to be part of the team that delivers the Games and are looking forward to soaking up the euphoric atmosphere as soon as the spectacular Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 begins!


About Marc Gutierrez

Marc Gutierrez joined the Atos Major Events team in charge of developing the new systems to be delivered for the first time in Salt Lake City Winter Games as IOC Worldwide IT Partner. In 2002 Marc joined the team that would be moving from city to city to deliver the next three Games editions: Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012. Through that period he had the opportunity to develop his skills in Architecture, Security and Management to become the Chief Technology Officer of Major Events in 2012. As CTO, his focus has been on the design of the new delivery model “build once – use often” and transition to the Cloud. In 2014, he moved to PyeongChang as Chief Integrator to deliver the first edition of the Games, setting the ground for the next Games to come. Personally, Marc has found working for Major Events has allowed him to live in many different countries. Being exposed to so many different cultures and languages has been an amazing experience for him.

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About Marta Sanfeliu
Head of Application Development Practice, Business & Platform Solutions
Marta Sanfeliu was the Chief Operating Officer of the Major Events unit at Atos. The unit covers all Atos large-scale events, including the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Marta is responsible for leading the commercial and technological development of this area of the business. Marta has eighteen years’ experience of working on the Olympic Games. In previous Games she was the Chief Integrator for the Sochi 2014 Winter Games, Operations Manager for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games, Central Operations Manager for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Games Management System Project Manager for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, and she also managed the Electronic Accreditation and Sport Entries applications at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Prior to working on the Games, Marta was an IT analyst for the Spanish Commercial Office in Beijing. Her career started in Barcelona as a developer and business analyst at IBM for financial systems used in the banking industry.

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