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VANOC and the ‘Plumbers’

With just under three years to go before Vancouver and Whistler host the XX1 Olympic Winter Games and X Paralympic Winter Games, it is likely that Ward Chapin will have the odd sleepless night now and...


March 1, 2007  


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With just under three years to go before Vancouver and Whistler host the XX1 Olympic Winter Games and X Paralympic Winter Games, it is likely that Ward Chapin will have the odd sleepless night now and again.

As chief information officer for the Vancouver Organizing Committee or VANOC, there is too much going on for that not to happen. Still, Chapin, a long time bank executive, appears to be up for the challenge.

A speaker at the recent BICSI conference in Vancouver (see story p. 6), he said that VANOC’s planning principles include the following: athletes and sport first; balance cost, quality and on-time delivery; meet contractual obligations; challenge everything and strategically select where to be extraordinary.

On the IT side, he has added three more — clear focus on team building, an emphasis on planning and project management and use proven technology as opposed to bleeding-edge to improve reliability.

Chapin’s approach is to keep IT simple, efficient and affordable. “VANOC is like any other normal corporation,” he said. “We employ around 300 people today and will have upwards of 1,200-1,400 at Games time.

“Our biggest challenge is that we have a lot of staff that have come from large corporations and used to installing million dollar systems. We try to reason with them by telling them that since we are only going to be here for three to four years, it does not make sense to have expensive systems in place.”

That is not to say the IT systems and the infrastructure are questionable. On the contrary, everything will be sterling. In its technology bid book, which was submitted to the International Olympic Committee prior to Vancouver being named as the host city for 2010, VANOC discussed the major infrastructure expansion that will occur.

While a high-speed fiber ring as well as copper wire currently services the area between Vancouver and Whistler, the bid book noted it is anticipated that all traffic including broadcast and telephony will be funneled down a fiber ring and that significant multiplexing of signals will take place.

To that end, a major milestone occurred in July 2006 when principal communications service provider Bell Canada announced the final groundbreaking for the laying of 120 kilometres of fiber optic cable in the so-called Sea to Sky corridor between the two communities.

Today, a shared vision for flawless technical execution of the 2010 Games becomes truly tangible, Chapin said at the time.

His to-do list, meanwhile, continues to grow. It is an immense job whether your talking about staffing a technology operations centre where hundreds of people will need to monitor the telecommunications network and all the applications that come with it, or making sure there are least two different electrical feeds from substations as well as a generator to a particular venue.

Then there is the security factor. The one thing he and his staff have going for them is that there has never been a successful information attack during the Games.

Finally, anyone interested in being part of this spectacle can certainly do so. While VANOC IT and vendor partner staff will number 1,180 by the time the Olympic flame is lit, there will be a need for as many as 2,000 IT volunteers and structured cabling professionals will be in high demand.

As Chapin put it, “we need the plumbers.” Further information on how to apply will be posted on the CNS Web site as developments unfold.