The High-Tech, High-Profile Olympics

From Web sites to pagers, the 1996 Summer Games are wired

Global services customers, the newest and most-coveted segment of the integration market, will become the target of more than $1 billion in promotional campaigns next week by high-tech firms whose integrated services will energize the Olympic Games.

The Olympics has long served as a promotional vehicle for an array of industries, but never before has its marketing synergies fallen so closely in step with computer integration services, an industry now described by many as being on the verge of a global awakening.

Globalization is not just a trend ? it's a way companies can leverage resources across international boundaries, said George Newstrom, corporate vice president for Electronic Data Systems Corp. Government Services Group, based in McLean, Va. EDS was an integrator for the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona.

"Selling in a stand-alone fashion does not work in many parts of the world," Newstrom said. "I'm not sure [companies] can do business without local partners," he said.

Two-thirds of the world's population will tune into the Atlanta games, making it the perfect opportunity for high-tech firms to make known their growing commitment to solutions and services. Because the Olympics need sophisticated technology in everything from badge-creating to computer networking and integration, high-tech firms represent the largest single business area in the list of Olympics sponsors.

And no one company expects to capture more of the Olympic audience's attention than IBM Corp., the world's largest provider of computer services and official integrator of the Olympic games.

"We are putting the games into a real-time dynamic environment. It's a great challenge and not one without risk," said Dennie Welsh, general manager of IBM Global Services and chairman of Integrated Systems Solutions Corp.

IBM is not alone. AT&T has added 7,000 miles of fiber-optic cable, installed 13,000 phones, built transmission links for worldwide TV broadcast and provided translation services for local police forces for the Olympics. In return, it is expecting a worldwide boost in recognition, leading to better sales. "It reinforces our U.S. brand position...[and] lifts our brand position globally," said Peter de Tagyos, AT&T's Olympics director.

After investing $40 million in Olympic support, AT&T has already reaped $960 million in contracts attributable to the Olympics, de Tagyos said. "Think about it the way we think about it.... We expect seven out of every 10 people to tune in to the Olympics via TV, and the fact is that five out of 10 people in the world have yet to make a telephone call," de Tagyos said.

"The Olympics is probably the ultimate platform to showcase a commitment to global services," said Linda Cohen, an analyst with The Gartner Group, Stamford, Conn. "These big government integrators have been dying to get into the commercial market, and suddenly here is a market that is going to come running to them," said Cohen, referring to an increasing number of international customers who are now seriously evaluating the possibility of outsourcing their infotech infrastructure.

In addition to AT&T, IBM has teamed with partners including Xerox Corp., Bell South, Sensormatic, Motorola, Panasonic and Eastman Kodak. Big Blue is also working with Swatch to create timing and scoring devices.

The crown jewel of IBM's Olympics project is an interactive World Wide Web page that can be found at Although the Internet existed four years ago when the Games were held in Barcelona, it had hardly taken off as the technology of the decade. IBM's site is therefore the first official Web site in the history of the Olympics.

The global nature of the Web makes it a perfect match to the Olympics. In June, the site received an average of 250,000 hits every day. Sports events are becoming more important as marketing tools for tech companies, and the Olympics reaches the most people.

During the Olympics, millions of hits are expected. The site acts as an all-inclusive Olympics information center, selling tickets, listing game results in real-time, showing weather forecasts and biographies of athletes. The IBM name, of course, is prevalent on every page. No ads for other companies support the project, although there are links to other sponsors. The Olympic logo ? the five intertwined rings ? which is considered one of the most recognizable trademarks in the world, is also prominent.

The Olympics are the testbed for a new IBM initiative called "content-hosting," offering real-time interactive events on the Web. It uses IBM's Net.Commerce software, which is hoped to be an electronic commerce catalyst.

IBM is using the Olympics in part as a tool to shed the hardware image and promote its image of a computer services company. "The Olympic solution is evidence of this new IBM and our global ability to meet client needs in a new technology environment," said Elizabeth Primrose-Smith, IBM director of worldwide Olympic sports operations, speaking to reporters about the project. Not to mention the fact that IBM gets major mileage from the logo. "We also have the ability to use those marks ? the Olympic rings ? throughout the world," said Smith.

The Internet is expected to become a bigger communications tool in other future events, as well. The last Super Bowl made use of the technology, and the upcoming Democratic and Republican national conventions will use the Internet for the first time in their history. IBM and other tech companies already have contracts for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, and the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

While IBM is using the Olympics to reposition itself globally, Eastman Kodak plans to reinforce its leading role in film while rolling out a few new imaging and teleradiology technologies. This will be the biggest year yet for Kodak in film developing. It expects to process 175,000 rolls. The Kodak imaging center and expo, taking up 28,500 square feet, will show off the newer offerings.

When Sensormatic, Boca Raton, Fla., wanted to increase its awareness level outside the retail world, the Olympics seemed like a natural fit, said Louis Chiera, director of Olympic marketing for the company. Sensormatic, which operates in 77 countries, manufactures ink tags that stores use to protect their wares, but they also provide various types of access control systems and services, such as smart cards and surveillance cameras. The Olympics can't be beat when it comes to showing security capabilities on a worldwide scale, said Chiera. The company has been tracking leads generated by its involvement with the Games and so far credits $27 million in revenue to the Olympics.

Motorola Inc., Schaumburg, Ill, has designed and installed and will now maintain through the Games a digital, two-way radio communications network that will support security, games management and transportation. The project, which is the largest two-way radio network developed for a sports event, will involve 10,000 portable and mobile radios; 6,000 pagers; 1,500 cellular phones; and 1,500 computer modems. "The Centennial Olympic games will require an unprecedented range of wireless technology," said Merle L. Gilmore, president and general manager of Motorola's land mobile products sector.

Each of the Olympic team members will receive a Motorola pager specially designed for them, called the "OlymPager." Motorola is promoting the product as a way for friends, family and coaches to send messages such as scheduling changes, congratulations or words of encouragement.

Even getting the word out has become more automated at the Olympics. A common news feed will be sent for the first time to the wire services such as Reuters, Associated Press and United Press International.

Wiring the Olympics is an enormous feat: 13,000 telephones; 10,000 televisions; 9,000 radios; 8,000 cable lines; 6,000 pagers; 1,000 desktop printers; 1,000 fax lines; and 300 local area networks are expected to be installed by the tech sponsor team.

Clearly, whenever such an enormous integration project is undertaken, there is much that could go wrong. However, the technology experts at the Olympics have a lot of expertise and a budget of $300 million, including cash and in-kind services. The level of activity at the Atlanta Committee of Olympic Games offices is higher than anyplace ever seen, but everyone has a smile on their face, said a Federal Bureau of Investigation spokesman who visited the offices July 3. "It's a very energetic place. People are confident that everything for the games will be ready on schedule." Boom or bust, people will be more aware of those technology company names. Everyone is hoping for a boom.

Those companies without the big bucks or technological capabilities to be sponsors can get their name out at CyberWorld Virtual Village, a 146,000 square-foot expo of technologies in downtown Atlanta. One attraction in the village will be Alternate Reality Corp.'s Vision Dome, a portable virtual reality product that doesn't require users to wear headsets or goggles. ARC, based in Research Triangle Park, N.C., will offer visitors to the Virtual Village a 3-D VR experience. The village will be open from 5:30 a.m. until midnight July 1 through Aug. 26 for optimum exposure, and for those who just couldn't get Olympic tickets.

Reader Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above.

What is your e-mail address?

My e-mail address is:

Do you have a password?

Forgot your password? Click here

Washington Technology Daily

Sign up for our newsletter.

Terms and Privacy Policy consent

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.


contracts DB