The Growth Of Social Media Usage Poses New Concerns For Olympic Games Organizing Committees

Feb 24 2014, 4:13pm CST | by

As the 2014 Winter Olympic Games wrap up in Sochi, the time has come to analyze how implementation of technology impacted Olympians’ and fans’ experiences throughout the Games.  With the advent of media platforms, like Instagram, and the growth of Twitter and Facebook since the 2012 London Olympic Games, the 2014 Winter Olympic Games were dubbed the “digital games.”  In preparation for 2016′s Summer Olympic Games in Rio, the question becomes, how can the organizing committee and IOC use lessons learned from Sochi to implement standards of best practice for technological usage going forward?

Business collaboration and communications company Avaya was charged with implementing the network relied upon in Sochi.  The network created by Avaya was relied upon by over 40,000 individuals who accessed it from places ranging from the Olympic village to media centers.  Overall, at any one time, 120,000 mobile devices could be accessing the network at any time and the data flowing through the network was equal to running three Super Bowls daily for 17 days in a row.  Given the widespread use of the network along with the broad space it covered, Avaya faced a serious effort in ensuring that the network was ready to go ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

As has been previously reported, hosting the Olympic Games in Sochi required building not only event sites and stadiums, but turning what is typically a summer destination into a winter resort town.  The vast construction projects presented a unique hurdle when building the network that would be used for the Olympic Games.  According to Avaya’s vice president of marketing for the Americas, Roberto Ricossa, Avaya had to begin the process of building the network’s infrastructure 18-months prior to the start of the Olympic Games.  That process was tedious and required serious organization on the corporation’s part.  ”In building a network, you need to physically lay out fiber optics and all of the devices that are going to be connected at the same time that the infrastructure is being built.  Everything, including the hotels and infrastructure, had to be built from scratch in Sochi.  As buildings were being built, we were building the communications infrastructure.  We had to build it in the summer, so we could test it in the winter under similar conditions to the Olympic Games.  In the winter, then, we would fine tune it and fix it in the summer so it was ready for the Olympic Games,” Ricossa explained.

The repeated testing and fixing of the network that Avaya experienced is a signal to future Olympic Games host committees.  In the wake of the digital age, where athletes and members of the media are relying more intensively upon digital devices, ample time must be left to build an efficient and effective network.  Additionally, while the IOC often looks at the Olympic Games as an event that can bolster the economy of underdeveloped areas, questions must be raised over these locale’s abilities to host the necessary networks.  In areas where significant construction is required to host the Olympic Games, serious questions and concerns must be raised over the potential consequences that may befall the digital space.

To further highlight how the extensive building of infrastructure ahead of the Olympic Games impacts the creation of its digital network, Ricossa compared the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games–for which Avaya also provided the network–to the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.  ”Vancouver wasn’t the same thing as Sochi.  One of the first things we encountered, was trying to work side-by-side as the entire village was being built.  You can’t lay fiber optics where there isn’t a road.  Thus, you have to work very closely and in tandem with the folks who are building the infrastructure.  Overall, each experience is different.  You are not copying something.  Rather, you are maximizing your past experiences [in creating a network] and applying them to new ones,” Ricossa explained.

As the usage of social media increases–it is estimated that attendees at the Sochi Olympic Games had at least two wireless devices–network providers must be prepared to provide technology that allows for seamless access.  ”One of the biggest changes we saw from Vancouver to Sochi, is that in Vancouver, the audience was basically attending and watching the Olympics.  In Sochi, the audience became reporters.  With two-to-three digital devices per person,  you had 120,000 devices generating content.  The network has to be able to support all of those devices with the same connectivity,” Ricossa said.

As social media changes and grows daily, one thing is certain:  The digital space should be a prime focus for future organizing committees and the IOC.  Together, they must address how to best plan and prepare for providing attendees with the most seamless and engaging Olympic Games digital experience.

Source: Forbes Business


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