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Olympic Recycling

By Kevin Fogarty Print this article Print

The Athens Games will reuse technology infrastructure from the Salt Lake City Winter Games in an effort to cut costs.

In Athens this summer, the organizers of the Olympic Games will attempt a technological feat never tried before at the Games: recycling.

No, technology staffers won't be collecting discarded Evian bottles for the deposit, but they will adapt technology used successfully at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City for reuse in Athens. Recycling technology may seem like common sense, but it didn't concern the International Olympic Committee and the host organizing committees in the past. Instead they built a huge infrastructure, ran a world-class amount of traffic across it for three weeks, then tore the whole thing apart and started over in the next city.

That approach not only made developing the systems slower and more risky, it also drove up the cost, a factor the new president of the IOC has sworn to bring under control.

Jacque Rogge—a three-time Olympic yachter, former member of the Belgian national rugby team and an orthopedic surgeon, who was elected president of the IOC in 2001—is reorganizing many areas of the Games to attempt to cut costs.

"We changed our strategy, starting in the Games in 2002 in Salt Lake City," says Phillippe Verveer, director of technology for the IOC. "Everything related to the [information system] for the media and the Internet will be the same basic solution we used in Salt Lake City."

The uber-conservative IOC has not announced any cost-savings targets, but the stakes are counted in the hundreds of millions of dollars. With hosting a Summer Games costing $3 billion overall and a Winter Games $2.2 billion, organizers fear the price tag will not allow not-so-wealthy countries to host the Games in the future.

Technology is one of the big-ticket items. Verveer estimates that the technology alone for a Summer Games starting from scratch costs about $400 million, and the price tag for a Winter Games is roughly $270 million. According to press reports, the 2000 Sydney Games' information systems cost IBM at least $100 million, but the price tag could have run as high as $200 million. IBM wouldn't comment.

The IOC's recycling policy should keep technology costs from rising as steeply before the next Winter Games in Turin, Italy, in 2006, Verveer says, but it hasn't had much of an impact on Athens. The Summer Games are so much larger than the Winter that the Athens group has had to continue buying new gear, but has reused the scoring systems, scoreboards and games management systems.

This article was originally published on 2004-05-06
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