The IT teamwork that will make the 2015 Pan Am Games a winner

The vice-president of information technology for the upcoming sports spectacular talks about fan engagement at Cisco Connect

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Pan Am Games 2015 connectivity

Close to 7,000 elite athletes from across the Americas and the Caribbean will put their abilities to the test at the Pan Am Games in Toronto next summer.

But, behind the cycling races, volleyball games and boxing matches, something else will be put to the test: technology.

The Toronto 2015 Pan American Games run July 10-26, 2015, followed by the Parapan Am Games from Aug. 7-15. And they will be the largest multi-sports games ever held in Canada, involving 41 countries — yes, even larger than the Vancouver Olympics.

The average sports fan probably has no idea how much technology is at work in the background to pull a sports event of this nature off the ground. What they will notice, though, is if it’s not working properly. Like a sprinter or gymnast, there is no room for error at these games.

Because, ultimately, it’s not just about building a network — it’s about connectivity.

And it’s not your typical connectivity challenge. Prior to the games, the tech team will outfit venues with networks and WAN connectivity — in some cases within a matter of days. Then, when the games are over, the networks have to be restored back to their original configuration.

During the games, these networks have to serve a variety of end-users, from media and broadcasters, to athletes, officials, sponsors, volunteers and spectators.

And the infrastructure will span a massive area. The canoe slalom, for example, will take place at the Minden Wild Water Preserve, about 191 kilometres from Toronto. There are 33 venues in total — a mix of new, existing and temporary — spread across Toronto and 14 other municipalities.

Consider this: The games will involve 1,200 wireless access points, 6,000 network drops and 250 network switches (wireless deployments are being planned using Cisco 3700, 2700 and 2600 access points).

And all of these venues need to be connected seamlessly and securely, says Brian Cook, vice-president of technology with the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games, who spoke to press last month at Cisco Connect in Toronto.

This involves an extensive network (no pun intended) of partners, who will provide technology and expertise to pull it all together. A combination of public and private cloud will be used to deliver the games, and a virtualized platform will host a games management system.

Allstream, meanwhile, is the official supplier of managed IP communications and hosted collaboration solutions, and will provide Internet connectivity and remote management of venue networks.

There are extensive plans for the use of WebEx and Jabber. And telepresence will be used in new, unique ways to engage fans.

“There’s a lot of wireless out there,” said Cook. “How do you engage people with that wireless?” Nowadays, if you’re attending a live sporting event, you will likely “engage” with that event through a mobile device, whether you’re researching an athlete’s stats or posting comments on social media.

The team behind the Pan Am Games is looking at ways to offer “Fan Chat” and telepresence experiences that will allow spectators to engage with athletes and make the overall experience more interactive.

A lot of new things are happening at the Pan Am Games in Toronto, including the introduction of new sports such as rugby sevens. But the opportunity to use technology not only to connect venues but also to connect fans with athletes will make these games truly collaborative.

Learn more about Allstream’s involvement by visiting the Toronto 2015 portal.

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