Sochi 2014: Don't Expect a Snowmageddon (or a Networkpocalypse)
When I picture Russia, the first images that come to mind are snow-covered onion domed cathedrals and frozen Siberian tundras...NOT palm trees, sandy beaches and record-setting bikini contests. But as anyone who's been tracking the news about Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics starting next February, this is the rare city - Russian or otherwise, that can encompass both extremes at once.
A fashionable subtropical resort town, Sochi is basically the Miami or Cancun of Russia. Yet, because of its location under the shadow of the western Caucasus mountains, Sochi is also one of Russia's top winter sports resorts. Imagine if San Diego's beaches and Lake Tahoe's snowy mountains were within a 10 minute drive from each other. That's Sochi.
It looks like this most winter days in Sochi.
Source: Sochi 2014 (on Flickr)
Except for last week. While the northeastern United States was blasted by Blizzard Nemo's Snowocalypse, Sochi was wilting under a Heat-mageddon - it hit 66 degrees Fahrenheit last week! - that caused Olympic organizers to cancel tests of the Olympic ski runs at the nearby Caucasus mountains.
To steal a phrase from a popular candy ad in the United States, Sochi: it's a sunny contradiction.
Never fear, though. Even when held in certifiably cold climes, Winter Olympics organizers have dealt with - and successfully overcome - bad (read: hot) weather. Uncooperative weather was overcome at Vancouver 2010. And, vow host organizers, it will be overcome in Sochi with special snowmaking machines that can create snow even when it's 59 degrees Fahrenheit outside.
The Rules of Modern Olympics
Besides the latest snowmaking gear, Sochi organizers are investing heavily in infrastructure and buildings for the Olympics that organizers hope to rival Beijing in grandeur and beauty.
Beach-side stadiums, snowy mountains in the back.
Source: Sochi 2014 (on Flickr)
Just as important for modern Olympics is investing in the event's high-tech and communications infrastructure.
For as London 2012 showed, today's Olympics are the Social Olympics. In London, fans and tourists tweeted and texted so heavily that it clogged up bandwidth and prevented TV crews from uploading their live event coverage. London organizers had to make a public plea for Olympicgoers to cut down on their tweets and texts.
Don't expect Sochi 2014 to encounter a similar Network-pocalypse, though. With the help of Avaya, the official communications vendor for Sochi 2014, organizers are already taking steps to make sure that television, Twitter and texting all run smoothly next year.
Avaya teamed with Bell Canada to supply the communications network for Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, which operated with nary a hitch. At Sochi, Avaya is building upon that success, supplying all of the networking and communications infrastructure, from switches, routers and network security gear, to telephones and contact center systems (here are the press releases in Russian and English).
The Avaya network has already been built and is now in full test mode. Indeed, the network underwent its first test all the way back in December, when the system was used to manage the world figure skating finals held at the Ice Palace auditorium where many of the events will be held next year.
Using Avaya Virtual Enterprise Network Architecture (VENA) gear, the Avaya network will unite sporting venues like the Ice Palace, media centers and the Olympic villages, and ensure wireless and wired communications are available and smooth for worker and visitor alike - even if the latter insists on watching an HD broadcast on their iPad of, say, hockey, as they sit in the stands of the figure skating competition.
Moreover, many more test events similar to the world figure skating finals will be held. Each will provide a real-world test of the Avaya-based communications network, which will be operated by local Russian employees being trained up as we speak by Avaya Learning Services technicians.
"Avaya has a long standing partnership with the Olympic movement and we value the trust put in our company's technology," says Michael Bayer, President, Avaya Europe, Middle East and Africa. "In addition, the opportunity to provide training and support to Russian communications workers offers Avaya an unparalleled opportunity to "give back" to the local community in Sochi and throughout Russia."
In short, while Sochi 2014 organizers may not be able to control the weather or the fans' mobile communications activity, they can control their response to it. With all of the preparation going on today, don't expect a Snowpocalypse or Network-mageddon to put a damper on next year's games.
Posted 11 Feb 2013 at 10:45 AM