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Atos takes the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics into the cloud

For the first time ever, all critical IT systems were run in the cloud at the 23rd Winter Olympic Games held in PyeongChang, South Korea, from 9 to 25 February 2018. Head of Olympics & Major Events Arnaud Ruffat looks back over the challenges faced by the long-standing IT partnership between Atos and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Atos and the IOC, an enduring IT partnership

“The Olympic Games are like a major company with 200,000 employees, 37 different locations and four billion clients around the world.” Arnaud Ruffat, Head of Olympics & Major Events, says that if Atos was able to support the giant sports organisation’s digital journey then “we can do the same for all of our customers, which we treat more like partners”. The partnership with the IOC runs through to the Paris Summer Games in 2024. The challenges that it faces have evolved with successive technological advances since Atos and the committee first teamed up at the 1992 Barcelona Games. The PyeongChang Winter Games will go down in the technological history of the Games as the first one where all critical IT systems were run in the cloud, as part of Atos’s move from a “build each time” to a “one-time build” model. Whereas in the past, new IT infrastructure was installed each time in host cities, the solution proposed now will allow cloud-based tools to be reused at future Games. A private cloud platform was employed for the first time at the Rio Games in 2016, with a local operator. This time, though, Atos delivered the Games applications on its own cloud, which is installed on Dell EMC VxBlock systems hosted at data centres in Europe in order to be compliant with European regulations. For the IOC, the aim is straightforward: optimise host city budgets by cutting costs. For Atos, the project illustrates the Group’s new positioning through its Digital Transformation Factory, in which the cloud is a key component.

A glocal service model

“For the first time, we proposed a service model that was both global and local”, Arnaud explains. In addition to the supervisory teams working at the Games’ Technology Operations Center in PyeongChang, Atos also appointed Venue Result Managers (VRMs) at the competition venues to make sure that timing and scoring information was correctly passed on to media-accessible information systems. Meanwhile, the Central Technology Operations Center, which housed the operational supervision team, managed the Cloud Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) from Barcelona. Still in Spain, but this time in Madrid, the test lab conducted tests on the 50 applications used by the Olympic Management System (OMS), a vital platform running the accreditation system for those taking part in the Games, including athletes, but also security personnel and journalists, and the Olympic Diffusion System (ODS), which gathers competition information for distribution to media partners, broadcasters and social media. The teams worked in around-the-clock shifts. “These were my first Olympic Games, and I was struck by the fantastic collaboration between the CIO, the local organising committee and all the technology partners. It’s an extremely well-oiled machine and gives off incredible energy”, says Arnaud.

To be at the forefront, you need to anticipate. Atos had a 300-strong team working year-round to be ready for this global event, which required over 100,000 hours of tests. Preparations are made for each Olympic Games four years in advance. ”We already have a team in Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics. First we design the applications, then we develop them, and in the year before the Games, we conduct a pair of on-site 15-day infrastructure technology rehearsals (TRs) to make sure that everything is operating properly”, says Arnaud. The PyeongChang TRs were carried out in October and December 2017.

5G, connected objects and fan engagement

Big data is set to transform fan engagement. “With the data analytics portion of our Digital Transformation Factory, the data gathered on fans may open up new business possibilities for us”, says Arnaud. Ticket sales offer valuable intelligence on sports lovers. Knowing them better is a way to target them more effectively and build loyalty. “We are already working in this area with the CIO, international federations and soccer clubs especially”, he adds. Other projects include the growing importance of connected objects, which is a key research area for Atos, the omnipresence of video content, which is in high demand among broadcasters, and preparations for 5G, with some venues in Korea already up to speed on the new standard.

For the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020, Atos plans to keep going with its 100% cloud-based model. What is the main challenge? The Summer Games are bigger and attract more viewers than the Winter Games. “Compared with 15 competition venues in PyeongChang, there will be more than 40 in Tokyo”, says Arnaud. Citius, Altius, Fortius!

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