When the world turns its collective attention to Athens, Greece, and the start of the 28th Olympiad Aug. 13, it will be able to do so thanks to the herculean IT effort of the Athens Olympic Committee and its sponsors.
One pillar of that effort is, and has been for the past 40 years, Xerox Corp., in Stamford, Conn. As with past Olympics, Xerox has spent the last several years preparing. But rather than orchestrate large-system deployments as it has before, this time Xerox has been designing and implementing a massive data-capturing and imaging-systems network, as well as an IT nerve center from which to monitor, configure and manage the infrastructure.
For Vince Schaffer, Xeroxs director of worldwide Olympic operations for the past decade, the Olympic commitment is an exercise in global enterprise planning and deployment, involving everything from assessment and early planning to procurement and deployment—and a lot more in between.
For Xerox, as well as the other technology sponsors, however, the enterprise is transient. "Yeah, we build this Fortune 500 company and then close it down six months after the games," Schaffer said with a laugh in an interview recently from his office in Athens.
But, as it is with the 10,000-plus athletes getting ready to compete in Greece, the name of the game for Xerox is preparation. The company, like other sponsors, not only spends several years mapping out plans, it also has a battery of preliminary challenges to overcome as well before it medals.
"When I first started doing the [Olympics], I thought Id just go and cover the games," Schaffer said. "But before you get to the games, you have to host every event prior to the games."
Thats because the Olympic Committee requires technology providers to test their prospective solutions in a live and similar setting prior to the games. In Xeroxs case, the company evaluated its solutions in more than 40 test events, genuine world-class athletic competitions, to ensure the quality of its systems under pressure.