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Bell tries out Games technology at test events

2010 Olympics will be first where all communications delivered via Internet Protocol

The Whistler Sliding Centre is all about speed.

So it is fitting that Olympic sponsor Bell is using it to show off the technology that will send the Games to the world in the blink of an eye.

It wants to makes sure that the 1.8 million live spectators, three billion television viewers, and the 10,000 media get the results and information they need as soon as they want it.

At the sliding centre, said Norm Silins, Bell’s general manager of Olympic venues, that means that as soon as a time is official it will be sent to the Olympic website so anyone can get the results — almost live.

“That’s rocket fast,” he said adding that about 100 Bell employees are helping at test events this season in preparation for the Olympics in 2010, including the World Cup of Luge at the sliding centre last weekend.

It’s the same over at the Alpine venue on Whistler Mountain. There photographers will be able to send pictures from mid-course to media outlets who will post them to the web in seconds.

“They can shoot the picture and before the skier gets to the bottom the picture will be with a photo-editor in London, England,” said Silins.

It is expected that there will be 1.5 billion web page hits during the Games.

Bell became a premier National Partner and exclusive telecommunications partner in 2004. It was a $200 million deal and is one of the biggest domestic sponsorships in Olympic history.

Of that about $60 million is being spent on the technology needed to deliver the Games. Bell is responsible for all communications, from cell phones, to computers, to two-way radios and everything in-between. At Games time it is expected that 15,000 phones and computers will be used by Olympic officials alone.

The 2010 Games are the first Olympics with the total communication package — voice, data and Internet — to be delivered via IP, or Internet Protocol.

“Every image, every story, every broadcast message is transmitted over the Bell network from all the venues by all the reporters and media to the entire world,” said Silins.

It will use a 285-kilometre cable between Vancouver and Whistler to do so — a cable that is big enough to carry all of Canada’s Internet traffic if it had to. And for security every system has double.

If something went wrong a back up would kick in “in a blink of an eye,” said Silins, adding that about 400 Bell employees from all across Canada will work on the Games.

Security is top of mind and along with redundancy in the network Bell is also setting up systems to prevent both virtual and real break-ins.

Bell has put 27 new cell sites in place to deal with their Olympic commitments, which covers about 130 sites from parking lots to competition venues.

When the Games are over the Bell network will stay in place.

“It is really a legacy for the communities and the businesses here,” said Silins.

  “Bell is in B.C. and we are here to stay and we are here to win customers.”