In-depth

Protecting the London 2012 Olympic Games

Can London really cope with the technology issues an Olympics will bring, and will it really be at risk from a terrorist cyber attack?

Holding a summer Olympics is a massive challenge for any country. The eyes of the world are on you, and for four weeks everything has to be perfect as possible if anything goes wrong it there will be national embarrassment.

The UK now has the challenge of taking up the baton carried so majestically by China last year. Although the 2008 Beijing Olympic games had its problems outside the competition, the games themselves were picture perfect, with the Chinese understandably proud of what they did.

In 2012, London will have the eyes of the world on it and it will hold its own type of games. It will be a different games, but when it comes down to it, it is unlikely to run into any serious problems.

Or will it? There are the financial implications of what the current economic climate will be like in the next few years, but there is another factor that could halt or disrupt the games technology.

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The challenges of the games

Philip Verveer, a former tech director for the International Olympic Committee (IOC), World Cup in 1998 and Winter Olympics of 1992, said that the London Olympics would be a unique challenge.

Verveer, who started his career with IBM more than 40 years ago, said that the London Olympics and World Cup were the most visible sporting events in the world, arousing interest with many people.

In the Beijing Olympics, there were 28 sports and 38 disciplines with around 11,000 competitors. There were also more than 660 ticket systems with 37 sports venues.

Verveer said: "You will need technology behind the scenes everywhere, not only during the events but during the preparation."

"From an IT point of view in Beijing they had around 12,000 PCs on a network and more than 1,100 servers."

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He said that although it wasn't the biggest IT project and network, it carried very unique and difficult challenges. He said: "You have to be ready on time, because you can't postpone the opening ceremony.

"Very often in IT projects you know you can postpone for weeks and years, but [in the Olympics] it is not possible," he said.

Verveer also said there the was the challenge of installing the complex network of computers, which would have to be done in weeks as the venues would not be available until close to the start of the games.

Verveer said that very often you needed to install computers in places where it wasn't usually done. "Take the winter games for example," he said. "You have computers almost in the snow outside. Some of them you have to install last minute."

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"Some of them you have to install every day because you can't leave them during the night," he added.

Everything needed to be working from the first day, as organisers had no time to explain to users about problems as the games finished in the space of four weeks.

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Verveer added: "Security is very important because you can be the target of many people... It is impossible to cover the security 100 per cent because the costs would be infinite."

"You have to take all the parts of your system and analyse what is important," he said.

The former director said that aspects such as timing, scoring and results were critical, as any problems would wreck the competition.

Can London Olympic technology cope?

It was the ex-home secretary David Blunkett that put the cyber safety of the games into focus at this year's Infosecurity conference in London.

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