Thursday August 18, 2016. At the Rio Stadium, French sprinter Christophe Lemaitre competes in the Olympic 200 meters final. The race is so close that you will have to wait a few stressful seconds to see your name appear on the board and thus confirm your Bronze medal, to the nearest thousandth of a second... Behind these moments of intense sporting emotions lies all a technological chain to capture, report, process, display data and distribute it to stadium audiences and hundreds of millions of television viewers around the world... “Without solid technological bases, nothing is possible” recalls Tony Estanguet, president of the Organizing Committee for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. For this edition, all the technologies necessary for the smooth running of the event will be supervised from the Technological Operations Center (“TOC”), inaugurated this Tuesday, October 3, a few kilometers from the Stade de France.
Like the “Mission Control Center” in Houston for NASA, “this command center, operated by Atos, will supervise all technological operations during the Games with all partners and the International Olympic Committee” explains Bruno Marie Rose, director of Technology and Information Systems of Paris 2024. After 5 years of preparation, the teams of the 15 technological partners are physically gathering in the same place, which will manage the 140 managers responsible for IT on all sites of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Install the necessary IT equipment - PCs, printers - on all 63 sites, manage the accreditation system for participants and 45,000 volunteers, generate and disseminate the results and data necessary for commentators, ensure all the connectivity that will allow the 10,500 athletes and the billions of sports fans to be connected at every moment, the technological spectrum is vast and mobilizes around 2000 people. Full-scale tests on technological services and sports competitions have started in June 2023 and will continue so that everything is ready on July 26, the day of the opening ceremony on the Seine. The real backbone of the project, the TOC will mobilize 300 people full time - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - during competition periods, capable of reacting to the slightest alert of the start of a malfunction. Over 610 square meters, located within an ultra-secure building, the control screens and equipment of the different TOC islands are distributed. The teams of the 15 technological partners are responsible for the smooth running of the Games. “Imagine a restaurant with 63 large tables of guests, each with their own needs, we are a bit like the kitchen which will have to serve all the tables, manage priorities and also welcome unforeseen guests” image Blandine Lassau, deputy director of integration for special events at Atos.
Like athletes who train and rehearse their actions before the big day, the different teams must define and test the processes to be able to react as best as possible in the event of problems. “We have no right to hiccups. We must ensure that everyone is well integrated and relies on the same processes. We also extensively test the resilience of IT systems, which are at the heart of the services provided to stakeholders in the Olympic ecosystem,” summarizes Christophe Thivet, director of technological integration for the Paris 2024 games at Atos. From power outages to the express replacement of computer equipment damaged due to heavy rains as happened at the Tokyo Olympics, we must be able to cope with all situations. Managing the unexpected, even the most grotesque situations like this crocodile munching on cables during the Rio Games... No chance of this incident happening again in Paris, but so many other scenarios to prepare for. Including several new ones due to new features specific to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. In addition to the opening ceremony on the Seine, the progress of four different sporting events on the Place de la Concorde - the most complex of sites to manage from a technological point of view - or the he organization of the surfing event in Tahiti, 15,000 kilometers from the host city of the Games, poses new technological challenges. “Usually the absence of competition at night allows us to carry out maintenance operations or updates. During the surfing events, we will be on duty 24 hours a day without respite” illustrates Christophe Thivet.
For the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, new technologies will also be deployed for the first time on an unprecedented scale. Walkie talkies will give way to “push to talk” for the exchanges necessary for the organization, private 5G will reinforce the connectivity needs for the opening ceremony, 3D site models will be made available to sports federations. Artificial intelligence will also be used to support the choice and management of volunteers, in order to find the best person in the best place based on availability and required skills. This TOC is one of 3 sites dedicated to volunteer technology. Olympic and Paralympic Games. It is supported by the Central Technology Operations Center (CTOC) in Barcelona and the Integration Testing Laboratory in Madrid. In the event of a problem with this TOC, a rescue center Obviously, all concerns related to cybersecurity and computer attacks are integrated into this colossal project. “From our point of view, ideally, successful Games are games where we will not hear about technology” summarizes Christophe Thivet. For these Games, the order of magnitude of the technological budget is 510 million euros out of the 4.4 billion planned to date for the entire event.