Wireless at the FIFA World Cup

18 Jun 2002
When the U.S. national team beat favored Portugal 3-2 in elimination round play at the FIFA World Cup on June 5, U.S. fans and players were naturally ecstatic. 
The players, no less than their fans, wanted the euphoria to last. So back at the team hotel in Seoul, Korea, many logged on to the Net to relive the glory through pictures, video clips and stories posted at soccer sites, including the official FIFA site. 
The scene at a post-game reception in one of the hotel's conference rooms, with players bent over their laptops, was a testament to the power of Wi-Fi wireless networking, says Doug Gardner, director of Avaya Inc.'s World Cup program. 
Thanks to a five-year, $100-million sponsorship deal between FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) and Avaya, which also sponsors the U.S. team, the Seoul hotel was "unwired" for high-speed Internet access using Avaya's ORiNOCO Wi-Fi equipment. 
More importantly, Avaya provides Wi-Fi Internet access in the enormous World Cup media centers in Seoul and Tokyo, Japan, and at all ten stadiums in Japan. (Due to a dispute with the Korean PTT, Avaya could not provide wireless access at the Korean stadiums.) 
For the matches in Japan, not only can players see pictures of their exploits on the Net right after the game, fans around the world can see pictures within minutes of the action taking place. 
Avaya installed six to eight access points in each of the Japanese stadiums to provide high-speed Internet access near the pitch (the playing field) for 200 or so accredited photo journalists. Altogether, there are 15,000 print, radio, TV and Web journalists accredited for the event, but most don't get near the pitch. 
"The main benefit," says Gerard Gouillou, head of IT and Internet services for FIFA, "is that there is no more being hooked to a wire. If you want to share something, you just take out your laptop and send it." 
The decision to deploy the wireless network came out of discussions Gardner had with the FIFA organizing committee in Japan a year ago. 
"The organizers recognized they had a problem, which was how to get photos quickly onto the Internet," Gardner says. "You want to be able to put pictures up within a few minutes of somebody scoring a goal or something dramatic happening on the field." 
Time is also of the essence, of course, for print publications with production deadlines that often can't wait for games to end. 
"Really, the thing driving this was getting pictures onto the Internet," Gardner says. Soccer is a visual sport, and most sites devoted to it maintain large, continually updated galleries of images, he notes. 
The wireless ORiNOCO access point networks at each stadium and the top-of-the-line Gold client cards distributed to the photo journalists make it possible for them to work at Internet speed. 
In past World Cups, photographers used conventional cameras. If they wanted to quickly get a picture on to the Net or to a newspaper, they had to take the film out of the camera and hand it to an assistant. The assistant took it to the media center, developed it, scanned it and then used an Internet connection there to e-mail the picture. 
Most World Cup photo journalists this year are using digital cameras. When they capture an image they want to post to the Net or to their publication, they take the camera's flash memory card out and hand it to the assistant. The assistant pops it into a laptop and transmits the picture, right from the pitch. 
In many cases, Gardner says, photos are posted to the Web within five minutes of the action occurring.