Becoming a Piece of the Beijing XXIX Olympiad

After my VUB ("Free University of Brussels") post-graduation a week ago, what I already knew since mid January 2008 – being selected as a Belgian Volunteer of the Atos Origin Olympic IT Support Team – is now slowly but surely dawning upon me: Within 25 days I will be granted the joy & honour of becoming a piece of the clockwork behind the XXIX Olympiad staged for the first time in history in the capital of the Middle Kingdom. Meanwhile I had to toil through a load of administration, accreditation, uniform sizing and the visa application (still now being finalised), but mentally all this took place at the far back of my mind, as part & parcel of my daily traditional workload. In fact also for me & Shanshan personally it will become a truly important event: Not only will we be catching up on Atlanta (1996) – planned but never realized – but this will be an Olympic + China trip all-in-one (visiting Shanshan's motherland). For a while we both have been winding everyone up at the home-front, and now it's about time we are excited ourselves. Also five to twelve o'clock to polish my rusty Mandarin, and rush though all the preparatory e-learning modules to be consumed for my role as IT Response Engineer, operating in the TOC (Technical Operation Center) based in the Beijing Digital Building, at a stone's throw away from the Olympic Water Cube, the Bird's Nest stadium (Beijing National Stadium) and the Olympic Village. As a result of our Microsoft System & Integration Unit having built the SIMS communication tool – containing information on athletes, federations, leagues, clubs, companies, affiliates, sports disciplines, events and competition results – I also volunteered to assist the BOIC (the Belgian Olympic and Inter-federal Committee based on the Heysel in Brussels) with their IT infrastructure in Beijing. Really great that they let us feature in the recent Beijing Olympic News No. 3, together with my friend Qin Yang from Levi's (see screenshot at the end). To get even more in the mood, I bought a beautiful book "Het mooiste van de Olypische Spelen" – official publication of the Olympic museum – and I enjoyed reading the blogs of Evi Van Acker (Sailing – Laser Radial) and Sébastien Godefroid (who won Silver in Atlanta, and who will be sailing the Tornado together with Carolijn Brower). Initially I was even strongly hoping to be posted in Qingdao – the site of the sailing competition and the best beer in China – but then I realised that the heart of the Games – and the place of all action & networking - would be near the Imperial City. As Volunteers we are really looked after, because I was even able to book an extra week – with hotel paid – to fully explore Beijing in depth.

Of course it's all primarily about athletic achievement. However Philippe Germond - Atos Origin Chairman of the Management Board + CEO - communicated the following amazing IT facts:

  • Atos Origin has achieved successfully its final technical rehearsal. Imagine that during the testing, Atos Origin had to simulate the three busiest days of the Games. The testing took place for 35 sports across 39 real venues both in Beijing, Hong Kong and remote cities and under conditions very close to those during Games times. 500 pre-defined operational scenarios were executed, including a flood, power failure and changes to the competition schedules.

  • These final rehearsals involved 2.500 committed persons from the BOCOG, Atos Origin and technology Partners, to ensure that staff, technology and procedures will be fully ready to respond to any situation.

  • On D-Day and during the 16 days of the Games, there will be 4.000 people under the responsibility of the Atos Origin team all from different nationalities and different functions ranging from IT managers, to Help Desk staff to Volunteers, Partners and Students, who will each have a specific role to play. This event, watched by billions of people around the world, is perhaps the biggest and most complex IT project they will encounter in their lives and the most time driven with its no-delay and zero-error pressures.

At the end of today, a collection of very informative hyperlinks: