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IT Firms Meet Olympic Challenge

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The 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens can be the test of a lifetime for IT companies tapped to provide
support for the athletic competition. Among the numerous responsibilities they have include updating results and athlete
information on the Athens 2004 Web site; supporting the 21,500
reporters covering the events; and linking up the 61 venues across the ancient city.

French IT services company Atos Origin is the main IT contractor in Athens.
It inherited the responsibility from Sema
Group, which it acquired earlier this year from Schlumberger.

The company has 400 IT workers monitoring infrastructure and systems
around-the-clock from a technology operation center and
has augmented its staff with 3,000 volunteers.

Caroline Crouch, an Atos Origin spokeswoman, said the company has
spent three-and-a-half years designing, building and
testing the systems. On the first day of competition, the company
supported 20 sports and 322 events at 24 venues.

“Day one of competition is when you see how they stand up against real
usage,” Crouch told “We were
pleased. Overall the systems worked well.”

Security has been paramount in Atos Origin’s plan, with safeguards in
place to consider access, redundancy and back-up.

For starters, IT staffers and volunteers have only enough access to
systems and venues to do their jobs. Security monitoring
is in place, so if anyone tampers with systems it will be detected,
Crouch said. Additionally, all IT systems are equipped
with standard security systems, including antivirus software to
firewalls and IDS.

“During the final technical rehearsal, 302 different scenarios were

tested, including IT security issues, such as
uncontrolled access to the IT systems, computer viruses, worm attacks
as well as power outages,” Crouch said.

Atos Origin has tapped several vendors — Kodak, Panasonic, Samsung
and Xerox — for equipment for the technical center and
event venues. A consortium of Greek IT firms are also supplying Sun
Unix servers, Dell PCs, and Intel-based servers, Crouch said.

The contract with Atos Origin covers subsequent Olympics in Turin in
2006 and Beijing in 2008. In those games, Atos Origin
will handle consulting, systems integration, operations management, IT
security and software applications development.

For 40 years, IBM provided computers for the Olympics,
but the company and the International Olympic
Committee clashed over contract terms and Big Blue pulled out after
the Sydney games.

“Success will be highly visible and will demonstrate Atos Origin’s
ability to handle highly complex and demanding projects;
equally, any failures will be painfully obvious,” Martin Canning, an
IDC analyst, wrote in a recent research report.

But it isn’t just IT titans performing in Athens. nCircle, a San
Francisco security startup, said its IP360 Vulnerability
Management System is being used by Visa to secure credit card
payments at the games.

The company’s monitoring gear keeps tabs on all the devices that
access Visa’s network to identify any vulnerabilities before
they can be exploited.

nCircle president and CEO Abe Kleinfeld said Visa set up a network in
Athens to handle credit card and ATM transactions. He
did not know specifically how many appliances are being used to
support Visa’s operations at the games, because the financial

giant is “buying all the time” for worldwide deployments.

“We’re very proud to be there,” Kleinfeld told
who said the high-profile can only raise the privately
held firm’s profile.

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