Sunday, October 10, 2010

Commonwealth Games 2010: technology and ticketing providing no end of problems

Olympic organisers say they will learn lessons from the serious ticketing and technology problems at the Commonwealth Games that have been so bad the system has teetered on the verge of collapse.

The most basic information needed for athletes, officials and technical delegates to conduct the competitions in New Delhi have ground to a halt.

In addition, the technology surrounding the sale of tickets has been immersed in scandal and incompetence, with spectators told venues are sold out, only to see on television the stands are half empty. Ticket offices often sell tickets but are then unable to print them out.

The ticketing debacle has even extended to fraud. On Sunday police arrested two people, including a volunteer who worked with the organising committee, for selling tickets at double the face value even though they were supposed to be given to schoolchildren for free.

“This has been an eye-opener into how not to do things, and how important it is for the whole system to be integrated from the word go, and tested months ahead of time,” said a London official who has been embedded in the Games staffing.

“The technology has been the biggest disaster and it has only been the goodwill of everyone being patient and trying to work around the issues that any results are being published, it is a nightmare. Technology and tickets, the two big items and they have failed both here, it has been a really valuable lesson for us not to cut any corners with this.”

Behind the scenes the results and information service which provides basic details such as schedules, times, placings, medal tallies and flash quotes from athletes has failed miserably. Commentators and journalists have to rely on scoreboard timings that flash up at a venue, sometimes for just seconds. The alternative is to wait more than four or five hours for such results.

“The main area we are very unhappy with is the Games info system,” Commonwealth Games Federation president Mike Fennell said.

Organising committee executives said the problem was the integration of the information at the venues on to the mainframe. Experts have been working on the problem of corrupted files and unworkable slow data speeds since before the opening ceremony, but it has now got to the stage that the information is being emailed around on pdf files.

Swiss Timing was charged with integrating the system at each venue into the main system but with just four days of competition remaining, the system still does not work.

Fennell said integration of the results was always challenging at Games and the contract had to be carefully handled.

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