Building a network to support high-profile sporting events has never been easy. There’s an immoveable deadline and incredible levels of complexity to deal with. Any issues that arise must be dealt with quickly and efficiently in the race to get everything ready for the Opening Ceremony.
But the team behind the network at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) had some new challenges to deal with. The biggest of these was supporting an event of this scale in a regional area instead of a major city. Then there were the compressed timeframes.
To design and build a network capable of providing a memorable experience for everybody involved – including athletes and officials, the media and spectators in the stadiums or around the world – required incredible levels of collaboration.
Major sporting events like the Commonwealth Games are usually held in major cities, where most of the required infrastructure is already in place. GC2018 was the first time these Games have been held in a regional area. As the official network partner, Optus worked closely with the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC) to build much of the required infrastructure.
And it wasn’t just in the Gold Coast. There was a huge geographic spread with competition venues more than 1,700 kilometres apart. The data centres responsible for hosting critical results and timing data were more than 4,300 kilometres away from where the action took place.
“The Games venues were spread right across the Gold Coast, from one end to the other and from the sea to the mountains,” Ian Smith, Optus VP and Executive Lead for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, says. “We had venues in Townsville and Cairns, we had data centres in Perth. All of these had to be connected.”
From a mobile perspective, Optus had to manage the twin challenge of boosting coverage to major competition sites, and to remote locations. Carrara Stadium, for example, usually gets crowds of less than 20,000 but regularly had to cope with twice as many people during the athletics action.
The network also needed to handle the volleyball action taking place at Coolangatta Beach and mountain bike racing through Nerang State Forest. It was an incredibly dynamic build with infrastructure and services being added to the network right up to the start of competition, while some elements were immediately decommissioned once no longer required.
One of the smartest features of the network design was that bandwidth could be scaled up or down to suit changing requirements at different venues. This meant that when broadcast channels lined up to film the 100 metres final, bandwidth could be increased to Carrara Stadium to ensure nobody missed a second of the action.
“The biggest challenge we had was the immoveable deadline,” Mathew Peterson, GOLDOC Head of Technology, says. “No two days were the same on the network from a technical point of view. We’ve been very appreciative of the strong partnership we have with Optus.”
Optus invested heavily in building the infrastructure required to support the Commonwealth Games. This included $30 million on boosting the coverage of its mobile network in the region. The investment in people was just as significant, with a diverse group of about 300 Optus professionals in operational support.
GC2018 saw skills pulled in from right across the group including consumer, networks and cyber security. All to make sure the Games delivered a great service for 6,600 athletes and officials, 3,500 media, 15,000 volunteers, almost 700,000 visitors to the Gold Coast and a global audience of 1.5 billion people.
“We really assembled a unique team,” Dean Gillard, Optus Service Delivery Director, says. “Never before in the history of Optus have we brought so many parts of our organisation together to bear on a customer site, specifically focused for a customer outcome.”
This commitment has been matched by GOLDOC, which brought together a team of specialists with experience of running major sporting events all over the world. One of these is Robert Campaniello, who left Australia in 2004 to work on the Torino Winter Games. Since then he’s worked on the Winter Games in Vancouver and Sochi, as well as the Asian Games and European Games, before returning to work on GC2018 two years ago.
“It’s not your normal, nine to five, Monday to Friday working environment,” he says. “Every day is different even though I’ve been doing it for a long time now.”
By working together with a real one-team mentality, Optus and GOLDOC designed and built a network able to handle the unique challenges of supporting a major sporting event in a regional area.
Orginally posted on Optus Accelerate