Race to Get Information out Is Olympic Event HIGH-TECH GAMES Series: ATLANTA 1996

By Kirsten A. Conover, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, July 16, 1996 | Go to article overview

Race to Get Information out Is Olympic Event HIGH-TECH GAMES Series: ATLANTA 1996


Kirsten A. Conover, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


While most viewers will be wowed by stunning athletic performers at the Olympics, what they may not notice is the high-powered technological act bringing the Games to their living rooms.

From Olympic sites on the Internet to venue security, the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) and a band of high-powered technology sponsors have built what is being billed as the most accessible and efficient Olympic games in history.

Indeed, the 1996 Games are the most high-tech yet, changing the way people view the Olympics and the way the Games are run.

For 2 million spectators and an estimated 3 billion viewers who want up-to-the-minute results as well as background, context, and color - beyond what they get from announcers - the Internet can serve as their virtual ticket and data base.

Information relay-ricochet

This year marks the debut of cyberspace's take on the Olympics. The first "official" Olympic Games Home Page on the World Wide Web (http://www.atlanta.olympic.org) was created by ACOG and International Business Machines (IBM), and they expect some 250,000 virtual visitors per day once the Centennial Games start Friday. These other Web pages with Olympic information add to the offerings:

*NBC -

http://www.olympic.nbc.com

*AT&T -

http://www.olympic.att.com

*The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - http://www.atlantagames.com.

Within the Olympic village, some 150,000 athletes, coaches, family members, officials, media employees, volunteers, contractors, and staff will have access to information at kiosks - from "Who's leading the men's platform diving after the fourth round?" to "How do I get to Peachtree Plaza?"

The amount of data disseminated by the IBM-ACOG project alone (3 terabytes, to be exact) would fill a daily newspaper every day for 10,000 years.

Highlights of the framework include:

*The results system, which provides instant confirmation of winners. This system was designed to manage results of the 271 medal events and to transfer the data - in less than one second - to judges, scoreboards, media, and attendees in Atlanta, and then to fans worldwide via the Web. So when a swimmer hits the touchpad, it's a done deal (although judges and referees have the power to delay the electronic transfer). IBM worked with Swatch Timing to integrate systems. Also, the Games' 40,000 volunteers will use pen-based notebook computers to keep track of play-by-play sports action, such as recording an assisted goal in soccer.

*The commentator information system. With 31 venues hosting competitions of 37 sports disciplines, how's a sportscaster to keep track? This system helps put scores, statistics, background, and more at announcers' fingertips. While a version of this was used in the Barcelona and Lillehammer Olympics, it's been revamped to make things even easier for sportscasters. For example, the "touch-screen" resembles a reporter's notebook and has tabbed sections. So if, for example, an "unknown" takes the gold in the 400-meter run, a reporter could quickly access that runner's biography for some background.

*The info '96 system. What does Michael Johnson like to eat for breakfast? This encyclopedia-like system is designed for athletes, coaches, volunteers, and media members attending the Games. Some 1,800 touch-screen kiosks will be set up in the Olympic village to provide event schedules, results, biographies, historical data, and even weather forecasts. E-mail and an electronic bulletin board will allow athletes and other users to communicate with one another (in English or French) as well as keep in touch with family members at the Games and back home. Info '96 also contains 100 years of Olympic history and reams of other information.

*1996 Centennial Olympic Games Web server. This will make the '96 Olympics the most accessible Games to fans ever. …

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