The Olympic Games is a time of great excitement and opportunity – particularly if you are the Worldwide IT Partner of the Games.
“We are very excited as we are less than 200 days away from Tokyo 2020,” Sophie Proust, Group EVP and Group CTO, Atos told Host City at Global Sports Week Paris. “There is a lot to do around data in the world of sports.”
One major benefit of the Olympic Games is the way that TOP Partners work together to deliver the event, each focusing in their own area of expertise.
Toyota is the relevant TOP Partner regarding vehicles, mobility support robots and mobility services. In Tokyo this summer, 100 driverless cars will move passengers around venues in the city’s waterfront area.
“Major cities are getting more and more crowded, so we need to think about that. Autonomous vehicles are not yet a mature technology, so it has to be used in a very constrained way.
“For future Games, we could well imagine TOP Partners working together with the IOC and Organising Committees to develop in specific domains such as driverless cars.”
I ask if the Olympic Games present possibilities as a test bed for autonomous vehicles because the organisers already close lanes for VIPs. “You could think of things like that. The magic of the Olympic Games and other major events is that we can collaborate between big enterprises in different sectors and build concrete cases as the event is a real accelerator for innovation and technology.”
Major events as smart cities
Transport is just one area of event management were technology can bring transformative applications. “Smart cities are about managing electricity, water, transport and energy,” Proust explains. “The ecosystem is so vast in the city.”
The scale of some major events is such that they can be considered as smart cities, with all the diverse attributes of the event generating huge amounts of data.
“We are involved in every aspect of major events from program management and integration of systems to applications for spectators, partners and sponsors. All of these areas generate data, which needs to be managed and structured efficiently.
"And with events involving multiple sports in multiple cities it is getting quite complex!”
The introduction of five new sports for Tokyo 2020 presents interesting opportunities, she says. “Tokyo 2020 will be the biggest Olympic Games to date, generating tremendous amounts of data. Our role is to collect, process and secure all of this data which is extremely valuable.”
Atos is also working on making applications more efficient. “All the IT applications have been migrated onto the cloud, and have now developed cloud native applications to facilitate deployment. We must ensure that our applications are available in all languages, so the fan experience is enhanced. So there are a lot of topics to handle, it’s very exciting.”
“Thinking about the future of major events, one of our key strengths is to take the data and do something with it. We have more and more computations and analysis methods to measure success. This content is sent over to broadcast – but increasingly it’s also personalised to individual consumers.”
A stadium can also be considered to be a smart city. “There are different technology means for measurement and control to enhance the experience at an event. For instance, we are the lead integrator of the Advanced Access Control System for Tokyo 2020, reducing waiting time for athletes, coaching staff, volunteers and journalists at entry points of official venues - while being more secure.
“In terms of fluidifying flows, you need to know what method of transport people are using to arrive – car, bus, metro or train – so you can have a predictive sense of how the flows are going to come, and then analyse it and adapt accordingly.
“Getting people to locations safely is quite complex.”
Sports: a digital driver or dawdler?
It was suggested at Global Sports Week that the sports industry been slow to respond to digital disruption as compared to other sectors. But Proust – who as CTO at Atos works across the entire range of industry sectors – turns this idea on its head.
“For me, sports is a real driver for innovation and for digital transformation because of the massive amounts of data we collect, and because sport is such a major part of everyone’s life. So sport is really a good driver, because of the impact on society.”
Angels Martin, General Manager Olympics at Atos told Host City why some sports organisations might be slow to adopt new technology.
“Usually sport organisations are very risk-averse. The bigger the event, the more risk-averse the organisation is, because they don’t want to create a mess in the middle of a major sports event in front of such a big audience.
“We need to manage the risk of new technologies, because the Olympic Games is highly visible.
“What helps us the most is that we know the business very well, supporting the Olympic Movement for 30 years; we are able to analyse what would be the impact of a new technology; and also to manage and assess the risks. We understand the impact of any change, of any new technology we want to implement.”
It stands to reason that events with lower visibility than the Olympic Games present a greater opportunity to showcase new technologies. “We try to have a more mature proof of concept that we can propose to the organising committees of smaller events. And then if they are happy to implement this, then we do it. It is not a testing field but to see what the response is and the reaction – and also to check the technology, if this is something to be used later on in the Olympic Games.”
Leave organising to the experts
I ask Martin what she sees as the biggest challenge facing the major events sector.
“There are so many challenges,” she says. “Talking generally, governing bodies want to take more control over what is being delivered. This is an area where I think that we will see some changes in the future – governing bodies being more willing to take more control over delivery. This is going to help governing bodies to get more synergies and reduce cost.”
Given the scale and scope of organising an Olympic Games, and the rapidly increased role of technology in event delivery, specialist companies like Atos bring invaluable expertise.
“The most important value is our experience”, she says. “We’ve been doing this since Barcelona 1992. We know a lot about how the Olympic Games are organised. In order to be fully prepared, we start collaborating with each Organizing Committee 7 years before the start of the event. Having done multiple Olympics in the past, Atos has a key role in the transfer of knowledge from edition to edition.
“If you have a solution that needs to be reinvented every time for every single organising committee it makes no sense. There are some services that are exactly the same Games after Games – why can’t you replicate them?
“I am sure you can find synergies between different events as well. These would allow the governing body to make savings for the organising committee and host cities, if they don’t have to do everything from the start again and again.”
In PyeongChang, Atos created a number of centralised services that in the past were provided locally. “The same people that provided services for the PyeongChang Games are now providing the same services for Tokyo and for Beijing. We are not only creating savings for the IOC and organising committees but also capitalising on knowledge, which is very important.”