Beijing 2008 Olympics
The Greatest Show On Earth!
No, we’re not talking about the 1952 Academy Award winning movie!
“The Olympics—a lifetime of training for just ten seconds!”
At the 1936 Summer Olympics
Once every four years, the world celebrates the only true global sporting event there is—the Summer Olympic Games. With a whopping 4 billion people expected to watch at least part of the events live or on the news, it’s by far “The Greatest show on Earth”. Whether you watch it for love of sports, or just to cheer your countrymen on, hoping they win more medals than last time—the fact remains, you will be watching.
World records are often smashed at the Games, personal bests almost always bettered, and heroes are often created overnight and showered with gifts and praise from their countrymen. Of course, sometimes, the Goliaths of certain sports are felled by a lesser known David or two, and Dream Teams often have nightmares for years to come—caused by losing to minnows or the underdogs. The Olympic Games inspire athletes from all over the globe to perform out of their skin, and brings elation and sorrow to billions worldwide—and this is the draw of it all!
However, while you’re sitting in the comfort of your home, watching TV and cheering your country on, or while sifting through the temporarily bloated sports pages to see the previous day’s results, try and also understand what exactly goes into the organisation of such an event.
Hidden away, behind all the muscular and sinewy athletes that are splashed on every screen or page, are thousands of professionals—hardware and software, networking, broadcast specialists, cameramen and women, etc. All of these people are involved in the event of their lives, some of them for the first time, some seasoned professionals, all of them unsung heroes, of sorts, who work night and day to ensure that everything works just so.
As most of you will testify, technology is seldom fool-proof, with crashes, bugs and more afflicting our gadgets and PCs on almost a daily basis. Yet, thousands of technology professionals at the Olympics have just one task—ensuring that there are no hiccups. With redundant systems for redundant systems, it’s all very hectic and nerve-wracking. Take for instance the 100 m dash, which is an event that almost every sports enthusiast watches with excitement. It is, after all, the quest to be the fastest sprinter on Earth for the men and women who qualify and race. However, imagine telling Usain Bolt to re-run his world record breaking 100 m dash (9.72 seconds), because the timing system was broken, or even postponing events because of technical failure? Unthinkable! Unlike the athletes, who can lose this time and still come back and take the glory four years (or four minutes) later, the companies involved in providing expertise and the equipment might not get any second chances.