Winter Olympics: Olympic Computer Breaks All Records
Homer, Steve, The Independent (London, England)
It is just possible. Eddie the Eagle might have won the ski jump at the Lillehammer Winter Olympics. It's stretching the point a bit, but in the original design of the jump site for this week's games the judges' tower was in the wrong place. When the design was simulated on a computer someone decided to check the view from the judges' box. The judges would not be able to see the competitors land! The design was changed before construction started and a costly mistake was avoided. But who knows? They might have thought Eddie was perfect.
The Olympics and computing are not two things that you normally put together. One is about sweat, adrenalin, struggle and physical and mental exertion, the other is about gas bills and sorting out your work in the office. But the Lillehammer games also represent an Olympic computer challenge.
The XVII Winter Olympics are like an inverted pyramid. There are 2,000 athletes, watched by 8,000 broadcasters and journalists looked after by 50,000 accredited personnel. Add to that the 100,000 spectators expected daily and a worldwide television audience of three billion.
To build facilities for the events and visitors and to set up systems to support the media and the general organisation involves a massive computing task. The system running in Norway is almost certainly the biggest computer network ever established to run for a brief period, with more than 3,000 terminals.
A computer-aided design system called DAK 94 proved invaluable in designing and planning for the Games. It was this system that discovered the problem with the ski jump - and a user also discovered that judges at the freestyle skiing site could be blinded by the sun at certain times of day.
Where a security fence is needed the security team just draws it on to the design and an order is sent for the right materials. All of the 20,000 signs to be displayed were entered into the system. Not only could the correct pictograph be chosen and text added, the signs were labelled so that construction workers knew exactly where they should be placed. The computer also alerted the user if the sign would conceal a power socket or cause other problems.
Interior designers used it to select and position $10.5m worth of furniture using 30 standard designs. It was used to see which seats would have restricted views when television cameras were installed (different sports use different camera locations). It was even used to check the logistics for the Olympic ceremonies.
DAK 94 will also be responsible for what should be some of the fastest bobsled runs ever. The Lillehammer course was engineered to give top performers speeds up to 125 kilometres per hour. The US team is also using its own computers to boost speed. Not only was the sled designed using a computer, but during trials information from on-board sensors measuring G-force, runner temperature, driver reaction and other factors was loaded into a portable computer and modifications made. The well-fancied British team, struggling along on a shoestring, was not pleased when they heard about this.
But another British medal hope, the speed skater Wilf O'Reilly, is using a laptop to monitor his performance. He is planning to send data to his coach via telephone modem to check his performances.
The Lillehammer Olympic Organising Committee is using the huge computer system to ensure that every person competing or working at Lillehammer is registered, accredited, seated, fed, housed, transported …
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Publication information: Article title: Winter Olympics: Olympic Computer Breaks All Records. Contributors: Homer, Steve - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: February 14, 1994. Page number: Not available. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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