Gold-Medal Tech: What Powered the Sochi Winter Olympic Games?

3.10.2014, Written by Annie Wang
Technology at the Olympics with Field Nation
Creative Commons: Attribution by Flickr User Carmen Rodriguez NSP

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia came to a close a little over a week ago, and as the athletes return home to celebrate their success, we want to take a look back at the technological infrastructure that the games depended on.


A lot changed since the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. There were some new faces among the competitors and even some new events, including ski halfpipe and team figure skating. But the Sochi Games also saw some major changes when it came to technology and its use by people worldwide to engage with the event. These games provided the perfect example of how quickly technology evolves.


In the four years since Vancouver, social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have exploded in popularity and widespread adoption of mobile devices brought the games and all of the information surrounding them right to our fingertips.


From breathtaking special effects at the opening ceremony to 4G wireless Internet access inside the Olympic stadium, Sochi showed the world what it takes to truly implement technology for the betterment of the Winter Games.


Gearing Up for the Games: Facts and Figures

It cost a whopping $580 million to construct and modernize telecommunications in the Sochi region in order to accommodate the world spotlight. A more detailed breakdown includes 400 servers, 2,500 wireless access points, 5,600 computers, 1,000 security network devices, and over 90 kilometers of optical fiber (outstretching Mount Everest!).


In all, there were an estimated 1 to 2 terabytes of data used each day by 40,000 athletes, spectators, supporters, journalists, and workers in Sochi during the 17-day event. There were early reports of weak tech infrastructure and instances of hacking, but those faded as security measures tightened throughout the games.


Wi-Fi for All

Certainly technology needed to be sufficient for the operation of the games and media coverage, but what about the spectators? The Sochi Games were the first Olympics ever (including summer) to offer 4G connectivity that operated at a speed of 10MBps. Avaya was able to create this with 7 separate networks virtualized on a single backbone.  Find wireless network techs on Field Nation.


On average, the speed of the 3G network in Olympic stadium during the opening ceremony was 3- 5MBps and the speed in the 4G network topped 20MBps. Just during the opening ceremony, there was over 400GB of data uploaded and downloaded between 2G, 3G, and 4G networks.


Many of Sochi’s hotels had Internet options for visitors but the Wi-Fi that was put in place for the Games had travel and technology publications urging readers to access the Internet via their mobile devices.


Mobile Dating and Distractions

One of the most interesting affects of the robust tech infrastructure at the Sochi Games centered on the world of online networking—mobile dating apps, to be precise. The popular “swipe” dating app Tinder was in the headlines when U.S. snowboarder Jamie Anderson declared that “Tinder in the Olympic Village is next-level.” The gold medalist commented that the dating app was so distracting that she ended up deleting it completely from her phone in order to focus on her sport.


Tinder CEO Sean Rad confirmed that the dating app saw an increase of 400 percent in the Sochi region after the Olympic athletes began to arrive. While it’s nothing new for Olympic athletes to socialize, technology played a bigger role than ever before in Sochi. Find Skilled VOIP and telco engineers on Field Nation.


Looking Ahead 

When compared with the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Sochi was light-years ahead when it came to technology. Will Sochi’s impressive IT pale in comparison to what we will see in four years in Pyeongchang, South Korea, or even the upcoming Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro?


Time will tell, but we definitely predict that will be the case. As Internet and mobile device usage increases and people use these tools to connect and engage more and more during the most celebrated sporting event in history, host cities of the Olympic Games will have to keep up.