Olympic team powers up with Gateway

As the Olympic Games get under way later this week in Athens, Gateway is playing a behind-the-scenes role as technology provider...

As the Olympic Games get under way later this week in Athens, Gateway is playing a behind-the-scenes role as technology provider to the US Olympic team.

Gateway is providing all front- and back-end support, from servers and storage to desktops, laptops and tablets, including about 100 Profile series desktops and 45 notebook computers, according to Gateway spokesman Ted Ladd. 

The US Olympic Committee has set up networks for the US athletes and coaches at the Olympic Village, at the American College of Greece - where the athletes and coaches train - and at the Olympic Committee's operations centre, said the US Olympic team's chief information officer Becky Autry. 

"In past Olympic Games, in the Olympic Village, there would be an area where athletes from all over the world could come and access computers and the internet," Autry said. "But when you have 10,000 athletes, there is quite a long line to get in and use the computers. So we are setting up 45 of the Profile units for our athletes and coaches to use, so they can check their e-mail and communicate with family and friends. 

"We will have the same type of set-up at our high-performance centre, where we will [install] 35 units, and smaller set-ups at our outlying areas for teams involved in coast sports such as yachting and volleyball," Autry said. 

The US Olympic team wants to make it as easy as possible for its athletes to keep in touch with family and friends, because not being able to do so can affect their performance and training, she said. 

"We [had] to go in quickly and set up a lot of hardware, and that is what the Gateway sponsorship has allowed us to do - to get what we need to support the team and get it to Athens," Autry said. "The real challenge in Greece is to be able to pull this off, because there is not a lot of high-speed internet." 

Although she declined to discuss specific IT security measures, Autry said all industry-standard practices will be in place. 

"One of the things we put on the public-use machines that is pretty slick is called Driveshield from Centurion Technologies," said US Olympic team IT manager Mark Stockwell. "It locks the PC down so nothing can be changed or manipulated. If something is done, it is only temporary. When the machine is rebooted, it is put back to the original configuration." 

While in Athens, US coaches and athletes are slated to use a variety of software on the Gateway PCs to help them with their performance. 

"We provide, find and modify many forms of technology to assist with athlete performance, including video analysis, video feedback technique, sports biomechanics analysis and any type of data collection involving sports physiology, strength and conditioning," said Tanya Porter, head of sports science for the US Olympic committee. "In all those areas, we assist the coach in data collection, so that we can... give as quick a feedback as possible." 

According to Porter, the software used by the athletes varies according to their sport. It includes software from Fribourg and Dartfish, which will allow the athletes and coaches to evaluate performances through real-time video analysis. 

"We use the Dartfish product with Gateway systems and we collect the video for technique analysis so we can do comparisons with the athletes among themselves or with someone who is doing the technique correctly," Porter said. It is also used to do scouting analyses of opponents. 

Paralympian Marlon Shirley, who hopes to become the first athlete with a leg amputation to break the 11-second barrier in the 100m dash, uses Dartfish on the Gateway products for training analysis. Shirley, who has been using Gateway equipment for more than a year, relies on Gateway's high-end desktop model 710XL connected to a plasma display monitor. 

After Shirley copies video images of his training or races into the computer, the Dartfish software allows him to look at the image and play it in slow motion. 

"It allows me to overlap one race from one day onto a race from another day, and I can see in real time where I am at. I can see differences between the races, and I can also use it to compare those races to races from my competitors," he said. "There are so many biomechanical measurements you can get from using this type of technology. I have been able to see a lot of things I need to work on. It has helped my ability to train more efficiently and run faster." 

Shirley said his goal is to move into world-class able-bodied competition full-time by 2006.

Linda Rosencrance writes for Computerworld

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