The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games are drawing ever near, with preparations for the global sporting showcase well underway. It may seem like only a short while since the capital was named as the host city for the Games, but incredibly there are fewer than 500 days until the festivities get underway. For sports fans, hosting the Olympics may be a dream come true – a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the greatest talent of the era compete for the ultimate sporting prize. But there are other significant benefits. From an infrastructure perspective, serving as the host city encourages vital inward investment, and helps to secure funding for major regeneration schemes. But the Games promise to leave a broader legacy for success in the UK, positively impacting on a wide variety of sectors and supply chain participants.
IT stands to derive significant added value from the Olympics, not only during the preparation and delivery stages but also post-2012. Hosting the Games promises to create thousands of jobs in the sector, with IT set to generate hundreds of millions of pounds per year on the back of the event. Given the sheer scale of the Olympics – around 17,000 athletes will compete over 38 disciplines over two weeks – technology will be essential to a smooth delivery. Some nine million tickets are to be sold for Olympic events prior to July 27th 2012 – something of a logistical nightmare without IT. And technology will also play a key role in supporting the catering, hospitality and retail sectors as they come to terms with the challenges brought about by an event of such unprecedented scale.
The London Organising Committee for the Olympics Games (Locog) estimates that 63,000 journalists from across the globe will be in attendance, each of whom will require access to an internet connection. In many cases, broadcasters will be streaming live coverage of events around the world via the web, and this requires the construction and maintenance of super-fast broadband networks. London is already on the way to becoming one of the world's most digitally-connected cities, but the Olympics will put incredible pressure on its web infrastructure. With Olympic events taking place in various locations – many outside of the capital itself – broadband networks must be able to cope with large data transfers, as real-time event information is fed back to Olympic HQ. Not only this, but with 500,000 people set to flock to London – many of whom will be accessing the internet via tablets, laptops and smartphones – significant pressure will be placed on the UK's 3G networks.
One infrastructure project underway in London is the installation of wireless broadband hotspots across the Tube. Passengers on the Underground network will be able to access Wi-Fi broadband on platform stations and in entrance lobbies, enabling them to keep tabs on the medal table as the Games progress. IT infrastructure work is also being carried out delivering super-fast broadband links to Olympic sites away from east London, including Weymouth Portland and Eton Manor.
Adam Thilthorpe, director of professionalism at BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, said he expected that those individuals working on such projects would be competent, well-qualified IT practitioners. In many cases, workers are likely to hold Chartered IT status, he noted. Mr Thilthorpe added that, "without doubt", the 2012 Olympics are going to be "one of the most technologically enabled games ever". Work is already under way through numerous contracts across, not only the UK, but the globe, to deliver real benefits and efficiency through IT, he explained.
Mr Thilthorpe suggested that a major benefit for the IT sector post-Olympics will be seen in terms of skills development. He claimed that the delivery of London 2012 will require heightened competencies in areas such as project management, cyber security and information assurance. Industry professionals who are involved in the Olympics are likely gain significant experience in such areas, which can then be used to good effect moving forwards, in their own careers and in terms of developing new talent. He said that with the government making a significant investment in Innovation Centres over the next few years, the IT sector will benefit from direct and indirect job generation. A legacy of the London 2012 Olympics should be that UK IT professionals are well-placed to take advantage.