World Cup IT system speeds accreditation, improves security

As first-round games begin in the World Cup, tournament attendees may have fewer concerns about fan violence, thanks to IT systems being employed behind the scenes at the month-long event. As official suppliers to the Coupe du Monde, Hewlett-Packard , Sybase, France Telecom and EDS have put together a technology package that promises to smooth the event's operation. One element of the IT systems behind the games lets show organisers visualise seating details of each of the tournament's 10 stadium locations.

As first-round games begin in the World Cup, tournament attendees may have fewer concerns about fan violence, thanks to IT systems being employed behind the scenes at the month-long event.

As official suppliers to the Coupe du Monde, the largest sports event on the globe, Hewlett-Packard , Sybase, France Telecom SA and Electronic Data Systems have put together a technology package that promises to smooth the event's operation, making the 64 matches between 32 soccer teams in 10 cities around France more enjoyable.

One element of the IT systems behind the games has let show organizers visualise seating details of each of the tournament's 10 stadium locations.

"The CAD system is mapping each of the stadiums down to the seat level," said Katey Kennedy, HP's World Cup marketing manager. "And we are able to track every seat in the stadium."

"And they are organising the seats so that the teams are separate. They're putting the most zealous fans on opposite sides of the stadium -- we can seat people in the stadium to protect them," Kennedy continued. "If the committee were to receive a large return of tickets, they would be able to re-allocate them efficiently and precisely."

HP's assortment of CAD software, running on HP 9000 servers, is also letting the organising committee determine which stadium seats will be blocked by the 17 television cameras located in the stadium bleachers -- the seats were removed from inventory so that no one gets a seat from which they have to peer around a TV camera in order to watch the game.

HP alone is supplying some 75 different products and services -- from PCs to printers to medical equipment -- to the Comité Français d'Organisation (France's Coupe du Monde organization committee). Established at the end of 1992, Comité Français d'Organisation considers itself a US$1 billion company. The organizing committee has been coordinating its work using and an intranet based in part on HP Open Mail.

France Telecom and HP together built a WAN linking the 10 soccer sites, using HP's 10Base-T hubs. "We are in each of the venue cities," Kennedy said, supplying 2,000 Vectra PCs, nearly 500 LaserJet printers, 100 Unix and NetServer products, scheduling 12,000 volunteers and accrediting 50,000 World Cup press, workers and van drivers.

What does all this mean for those 50,000 accreditees? For a start, accreditation for journalists, volunteers and workers is expected to go more smoothly with the automated system the sponsors have put together.

"The whole accreditation process for journalists has always been difficult, cumbersome and lengthy in the past," said Kennedy, who added that by automating the process at each step, the technology suppliers have whittled accreditation time from 20 minutes to 5 minutes. "Our systems can output a color photo on a laminated badge in just two minutes."

Here's how it works: accreditees who registered before the Coupe de Monde have their information fed into a Sybase database. Upon verification of proper identification papers at a stadium, the World Cup journalist or worker's record is called up, a photo is taken with an HP digital camera and then the image is send to inkjet printer. The badge is printed and laminated, and the accreditee is ready for soccer.

HP's OpenView is used for network management while a Sybase database will help manage volunteers.

On site, HP will provide trouble shooting with a maintenance and support team. HP's AssetView is a software application being used for "tracking every piece of software and hardware so France Telecom and Sybase can get back the equipment they need," Kennedy explained.

When it comes to challenges of the World-Cup size, Kennedy said that anticipating the role of the Internet during the three-year planning process was not at all easy. "When we started this three years ago, this wasn't where the Web was."

Today, however, the sponsors are expecting 25 million to 50 million hits a day on the official World Cup site (http://www.france98.com/). Earlier in the month, before the games had even opened, the site logged 4.5 million hits in a day, she said. "Through the Internet site, running on HP Domain, we are delivering the largest sports event site ever."

Still, the vendor has built a system that will handle more hits, if interest exceeds expectations. "We are planning to be able to handle 175 million hits per day," Kennedy said. The Web site runs on HP 9000 servers, along with software from EDS and Sybase.

The site will also help would-be World Cup attendees purchase event souvenirs that they might otherwise never get. "Anyone can purchase a world cup T-shirt or pen from wherever they are -- before, you would have had to come to France," Kennedy noted.

"The World Cup organizing committee is getting the full breath of the products we can deliver, and we are helping them to run their business more efficiently than ever," Kennedy concluded. "We are helping the business be more efficient."

More information about the Coupe du Monde can be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.france98.com/.

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