If there are any IT glitches at the World Cup the buck will stop at Doug Gardner. He talks to Ross Bentley about the challenge of his career

Forget England football manager Sven Goran Ericsson - the man with the really serious preparation to do before the 2002 World Cup kicks off is Doug Gardner, World Cup project director for communications company Avaya.

Gardner has a constant reminder of the task from the countdown monitor on his computer and, with about 100 days to go before the opening ceremony on 31 May, there is plenty to be getting on with.

"The first thing was to get my head around the size of the project," says Gardner. "I am responsible for the installation of all the voice, data and wireless network infrastructure in the 20 World Cup stadia and the two international press centres in Seoul and Yokohama." This adds up to more than 1,000 kilometres of cabling servicing an expected 15,000 journalists using 10,000 assorted communication devices.

Gardner uses Microsoft's Project Plan software to help him to organise this formidable roll-out - an automated project planner which enables him to define resources, tasks and mile stones that now runs to about 50 pages.

Gardner has broken down the project by country, stadium and the separate voice, data and wireless infrastructures for each stadium.

Wireless local area network technology is being installed to allow photographers at pitchside to send digital images to their colleagues in the press boxes. This is the first time this type of technology has been used in a World Cup, although it was used at the Sydney Olympics and at the current Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City.

All the equipment has been ordered and is now in the warehouses being tested. With the competition ranging across both Japan and Korea, Gardner has had to take into consideration the different networking standards that exist in each country - Japan uses ATM while in Korea Frame Relay is the accepted networking protocol.

As with all major projects getting the right team together is essential. Gardner has hired three specialists who have worked on big sports events before - for example, the logistics manager who is responsible for the allocation of people and spare parts worked at the Sydney Olympics.

In all Avaya plans to deploy 10 project managers and another 120 employees to build and maintain the network. These will be complemented by teams from Avaya's business partners in the host countries.

Avaya's involvement with this year's World Cup is also a huge marketing opportunity. Failure is not an option. "We have taken every step to guarantee the availability of the networks," says Gardner. "At every site there is a dual power supply. We will also put in two links from the network each going to a separate telephone exchange in case one should go down.

"In most stadia the routers for the two networks are in different parts of the stadium. We have gone for two - 'belt-and-braces' - because it is vital that the three to four hours either side of a match see uninterruptible access to voice and information."

A vital part of the preparation will be testing the networks before they go live. As far as sheer weight of network traffic is concerned this is expected to be the largest World Cup competition so far. Two weeks before the event starts Gardner plans to carry out a line trial to measure the performance of the network. "We will test eight stadia and both press centres by simulating live matches over the network using information from France '98.

"Then we will have people unplug things and generally make life difficult. This will help us to see whether we have dotted all the Is and crossed all the Ts. We will continue to carry out smaller tests right up to the kick-off date."

Gardner admits that this project is by far the biggest challenge of his career "There is a lot of detail to work out," he says. "As we are working through I tick three things off and then add two more but I'm slowly getting through the 'to do' list and expect to have the majority of boxes ticked by the end of April."

Gardner says to relieve some of the pressure his team have completed as much as they can, including the network design. "One of the first things we did was give an IP address to every peripheral expected to connect to the network - all 40,000 of them," he says. "So we won't have people running around thinking, 'Where's the IP address list?'. The firewalls are also already in and are tested - it is one less thing to worry about."

Avaya's contract with Fifa runs for six years, incorporating the Women's World Cup in China in 2003 and the 2006 World Cup in Germany. After this summer's competition Gardner's team will turn their attention to the women's competition in China.

Meanwhile the company has already started discussions with the German committee to work out what kind of technology will be needed in four years time. "The Germans are planning to build between 8 and 12 new stadia. We are involved from the start with the design specs so we are able to incorporate the technology," says Gardner.

"By 2006 I expect wireless devices to be significantly advanced and to have replaced many of the traditional workstations."

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This was first published in February 2002

 

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