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Cabling the 2010 Winter Olympic Games

Bell's Madigin explains how it was all done at BICSI Canadian Conference


May 1, 2010  


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MONTREAL – It was massive, it was intimidating and it began with a simple request to Bell Canada executive Joe Madigin: Find out what would it take to successfully cable the Vancouver Winter Olympic and Para-Olympic Games.

With two villages, two media centres, three training venues, nine sporting venues, seven non-competition venues and 54 support sites to worry about, it was evident from the onset that this was not going to be your traditional installation.

“First, we had to decide how big this elephant was going to be,” said Madigin in his opening keynote speech here at the recent BICSI Canadian Conference & Exhibition held in early May.

“There is no blueprint for these things. The geography is different, the countries are different. You have to improvise and things change constantly.”

The real work began once Madigin had completed his analysis and Bell was named the exclusive telecommunications partner in 2004, at which point it vowed to deliver the first all-IP Games. In his presentation, he outlined what went on at each of the venues during the building phase over a five year period that ended with the successful completion of the infrastructure.

First, there was a 120 kilometre fiber line in the Sea to Sky corridor between Vancouver and Whistler.

“That was an incredible task,” said Madigin, Bell’s Manager of Tele­communications Infrastructure. “As that piece got underway, we had to take a good look at what was required within the venues. We had to look at past Games as a starting point.”

The venue build involved nine cable designers, 10 cabling contracting firms, and the installation of 24,400 Category 5e drops, 451 telecom closets and over 900 kilometres of fiber. Copper and fiber totals ended up being twice as much as the original estimate.

Combined, they provided connectivity for such functions as timing and scoring and the administration network to scoreboards and security.

“Connectivity is king,” said Madigin. “Without it, you would not have seen the Games on television or read about them in newspapers. Every picture, every story, every timing result was all running over the cable that we installed for the Games into these venues.”

The flip side is that the bulk of the cable that was installed was ripped out at the conclusion of the Paralympic Games in late March.

A case in point is GM Place, home of the Vancouver Canucks, and BC Place, site of the Opening and Closing ceremonies.

Peter Christoff, general manager of Centre Communications Ltd., a Richmond, B.C. cabling contractor which carried out the installation at both venues as well as in an outside compound, says multimode and single mode fiber were installed at each along with 2,200 Category 5e cables.

It took a crew of 15 six months to carry out the installation at each of the three locations and two weeks to remove it.

“There was absolutely, crazy serious pressure during the last two weeks before the Games,” recalls Christoff. “David Atkins (who choreographed the opening and closing ceremonies), had changes, upon changes upon changes every day. To manage them and keep smiling was a very, very daunting task.”

Despite that challenge, it was an exhilarating time. For example, Christoff conducted a post-project recap evaluation with all crew members. Everyone, he says, “loved the grandness of the venue and working in the big stadium.”

“How did we do it?” asked Madigin. “First you have to build a good team. I was very fortunate to have a great team of designers and each had one prime venue to work on. We had to take the risk out of this project very early on, which meant putting out an RFP early. All of the cabling contractors hired stepped up to the plate.”

See also p. 16