DAILY INSIGHT: Tech in Sochi

How much tech does it take to run the Olympics?  
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How much tech does it take to run the Olympics?  

By Jon Castelhano, CIO Advisor

I have always enjoyed watching the Olympics, both summer and winter versions. Each of the seasons contain many events that I find exciting and some that are, well, just plain boring to me. At times I think that the X Games should just change its name to the Olympics and we would be better off, but that is just an opinion, so please don't take offense. One aspect of the games that I do find interesting is the technology advancements in equipment and apparel that the athletes use to give them that ever-so-slight advantage when paired with their amazing athletic ability. Let us also not overlook the technology that runs the entire event, including the opening and closing ceremonies.

The 5th Ring
By now the 5th ring of the Olympic symbol is famous; being stubborn and refusing to open was all part of its mischievous plan to separate itself from the other four rings at the opening ceremonies in Sochi. We all know that somewhere in Russia, someone was blaming that dang technology for not working properly and ruing the lesson, I mean show. All IT people around the world were probably cringing when they saw that ring thinking about itself and not the countless tech folks who put hours into programming, setup, and testing to make that one moment go off without a fuss. We all know it's part of the game and the amount of technology at Sochi is quite staggering when you take a closer look.

Courtesy of CNET News. Adiba explained that the technology infrastructure is composed of 400 servers, 1,000 security network devices, and 5,600 computers that are responsible for things such as providing real-time Olympics information to 9,500 accredited broadcasters and members of the media. As well, it is delivering competition results to a global audience in less than a second; processing and activating accreditation badges for 200,000 "members of the Olympic Family," and collecting and processing data for all of the more than 5,500 athletes taking part in the games.

My favorite tech stat from the opening ceremony is the 2.64 million lumens that were created by the 132 projectors working together to illuminate the stadium floor. I am not sure, however, if that tops the security perimeter setup around the games to scan texts, emails, cell calls and facially recognize anyone attending, but that is a post for another day.

Other Technology

There are many other forms of technology worth noting that many wouldn't directly relate to someone sitting behind a laptop punching keys for hours. Matt McFarland pulled together seven examples in his Washington Postarticle and I wanted to highlight a few.

1. New speed skating suit created by a collaboration between the apparel company Under Armour and Lockheed Martin. Who would have thought a defense company and sports clothing maker could come together to make a speed skating suit? Even if the U.S., skaters are calling the suit in question after a poor start, large amount of technology here.

2. An ultra lightweight zipper on the jackets of freestyle skiers that—get this—is waterproof. I tease, but the zipper is bonded directly to the fabric. Very cool if you ever have sewn a zipper back on.

3. Raising money through cryptocurrency. This form of exchange still confuses me, but this is how the Jamaican bobsled team and an Indian luger made it to Sochi.

Bring It Home

I did not take the time to research exactly how many people it takes just to make sure the technology at Sochi runs smoothly. After reflecting a bit on such a number, it really doesn't matter, because at some point technology plays a role in just about every aspect of our daily lives, including the Olympics. From social media to security, fancy zippers to 132 projectors, technology is embedded in our environment. Our students of today will be planning the Olympics of tomorrow and I just bet they won't be pushing a pencil to make things happen. Just remember to keep that 5th ring in check so all the IT folks around the world don't have to hold their breath in the future.

Jon Castelhano is director of technology for Apache Junction USD in Arizona. This blog is cross posted on his blog, This and That.