Beijing 2008: a Digital Olympics

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BEIJING 2008: A DIGITAL OLYMPICS
Known in China as “Superfish,” Michael Phelps was on his way to achieving his goal of eight gold medals. His most difficult competition was the 100-meter butterfly. On PCs, cell phones, electronic billboards, and televisions, millions of viewers worldwide watched him win the event by .01 seconds. The results appeared on the screens almost in real time. If you did not see this exciting race, you can access it on YouTube. This was only one component in the “most wired,” or digital, Olympics.

The Problem
It was not an easy task to manage 42 events in seven different cities in China. Competition results had to be displayed worldwide not only on PCs and televisions, but also on jumbo public display screens in stadiums and streets in hundreds of cities, and on millions of tiny mobile device screens.

But, this was only one problem. The Olympic organizers also had to manage the logistics of the participants and address the requirements of the media, while also accommodating over 100 million tourists. The following are some of the specific requirements that the Beijing Olympic organizers had to meet:

* Record the performance of all athletes and determine the winners instantly, sometimes based on millisecond differences. These results then had to be disseminated around the globe in real time. * China hosted about 300,000 athletes, referees, trainers, journalists, and other workers from more than 200 countries, speaking dozens of languages. All needed to have accommodations, transportation, and food. * Nearly 8 million visitors from abroad and close to 120 million domestic travelers attended the Olympics. They needed accommodations, transportation, and so forth. * Tickets to all events had to be issued, many in advance, and to people in other countries. Protection against counterfeiting was necessary. * Approximately 1,000 percent more Web-delivered videos were needed in 2008 than were needed by the 2004 Olympics.

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