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The Tech Behind the 2012 Olympics

We also got a look into what exactly happens when something does go wrong. While the majority of the computers of LOCOG HQ will eventually make their way into the Olympic Park proper – including a whopping 500 in the stadium – a few hundred will remain at canary Wharf, in the nerve centre of the whole operation. Known as the TOC (Technology Operations Centre), this is the “air traffic control” of the 2012 Olympics, and looks a bit like the mission control from Apollo 13.

It’s currently run by a skeleton crew, but come the time of the Olympics it’ll be packed with more than 300 coffee-fuelled bodies. What most of them will be hoping to avoid are the two emergency codes, the equivalent of a great big emergency klaxon sounding. These will appear on a giant screen in front of the TOC workers, but will more likely relate to a network cable having been pulled out somewhere in the velodrome than one of Usain Bolt’s legs having fallen off, mid-sprint.

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From the vantage point of this building in Canary Wharf, some 20-odd floors above the ground, it’s hard not to feel estranged from the action. But the people working here will be tied into the minutiae of the event more than almost anyone else.

The whole point of LOCOG’s immense preparations is to make everything run smoothly – all that effort, just to make sure everyone takes you for granted. So if all goes to plan, most of you might not hear of LOCOG’s infrastructure again. As Project Manager Michael Trainor said, the idea is that the folk in the nerve centre should be utterly bored for the duration of the games. By the time the computers have been given the once, twice and three-times over, the real thing should be a breeze. In theory.

To people like us who work, for the most part, in front of a computer, an exercise in making so many PCs invisible can seem odd. Acer’s part in the 2012 Olympics story is based on supplying 11,500 desktop PCs, 1,100 notebooks and 900 servers – well over £5 million worth at original retail prices. What makes these huge numbers somewhat easier to swallow, though, is that LOCOG is a privately-funded institution, and therefore doesn’t make up part of the £9.3 billion government budget for the games.

Here’s wishing them luck when the show kicks off in just 227 days.

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