In a couple of weeks, over two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to focus its attention on the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games (July 27 to August 12). To support this incredible audience of more than four billion people, the Technology Operations Centre (TOC) has been designed to process 30% more results data than Beijing 2008. It’s a massive undertaking, requiring a network that can connect this audience with the more than 14,500 athletes from over 200 countries participating in almost 700 venues.
The more than 5,000 staff involved with the TOC will monitor 900 servers, 1,000 network and security devices and 9,500 PCs. Prior to the event, there will have been 200,000 hours of testing, with two “technical rehearsals” to simulate hundreds of scenarios, including challenges such as cyber security and physical attacks on IT equipment.
It’s a lot different from the last time the Olympics were held in London. In 1948, there were 4,689 competitors from 59 nations, competing in 136 events. While TV was part of the package, the majority of the audience tuned in by radio, with the network hub in the stadium post office, and a field event network consisting of US Army-type field telephones.
Last year’s World Cup offers some insight into how network traffic may be affected by the Olympics. Mobile bandwidth data usage increased by 24%, web browsing traffic increased by 35% during match time, YouTube traffic grew by 32% on post-match mornings, lunchtime matches showed the largest bandwidth increase with 31%., and video streaming increased by 11%.
The Olympics’ website has been designed to handle over 30 million concurrent sessions, with traffic demand estimated at more than 1 pettabyte per day, resulting in a potential peak traffic into the hosted infrastructure of around 2 to 3 Gbps. Throw in wireless networks and managing all this will be an ‘Olympian’ task.
BT Communications, responsible for the planning, design and rollout of the network, says there will be 80,000 connections across 65 different locations, carrying up to 60Gb per second, and 1,800 wireless access points and interactive screens in UK city centres. The telecom company expects one billion smart devices to connect during the Games either via 3G or Wi-Fi, together with social media websites like Twitter and Facebook. It’s not a question of if data transfer speeds will be affected, but by how much.
In addition to network traffic concerns, there will also be increased security risks, according to Jon Oltsik, senior principal analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group, Inc. ‘Cyber criminals are lining up with all kinds of Olympic phishing and malware distribution scams while Hacktivist groups may use the publicity of the Olympics to target nation states and major sponsors.’
The best and brightest will be on display in London. Hopefully, the athletes will provide comparable performances to those of the network stars powering the event.