Glasgow 2014: Connectivity at the Commonwealth Games

It’s now day nine of the 2014 Commonwealth Games - 15,000 volunteers, 6,500 athletes and 1,400 Games employees have descended on Glasgow, along with thousands of spectators and sports fans. It marks the largest multi-sport event ever held in Scotland and is a defining event amid the summer of sport that’s already seen the World Cup, Wimbledon and the Tour de France touch the UK.

But behind the headlines, the medals and the photo-finishes is a network that has made Glasgow 2014 the most connected Commonwealth Games yet. This ranges from supporting the huge volume of social media generated by excited spectators to broadcasters using the platform to bring real-time coverage and analysis to the world.

Technology and sport have a symbiotic relationship; and whilst the impact of technology in sport continues to grow, so do our expectations. Through social media and greater connectivity we are now able to get closer to the athletes themselves, following their training and diet regimes before, during and after the event itself.

In the four years since the last Commonwealth Games, connectivity and social media at and around sporting events has changed the way that we interact with sports; both on and offsite. The network needed to support our changing behaviours is constantly evolving. To provide an insight, across the Glasgow site, there is 240km of fibre, the equivalent length of 600 Hampden Park tracks, resulting in an installed bandwidth equating to 520 gigabits per second. Glasgow has seen more Wi-Fi, more venue enhancements, and smarter ticketing and accreditation than any Commonwealth Games to date; and having a reliable network which can provide the backbone to accommodate this is absolutely crucial.

The transformative nature is having a positive impact on the athletes themselves. At Cisco we talk about the ‘Internet of Everything’, and the way that our lives are changing by connecting the unconnected. We predict by 2020 there will be 50 billion connected devices in the world. The huge upsurge in wearable technology, particularly fitness bands and monitors, is already helping athletes capture data on their training. This will have a radical impact on the way we experience sport in the future, allowing both athlete and spectator to get instant analysis of the performance.

Cisco’s technology is not only helping deliver the games today; it’s also laying the foundations for the future. At Glasgow we’re running a joint demonstration with BBC Research and Development during the games, allowing visitors to the Glasgow Science Centre to explore the future of TV viewing in the home. The vivid demonstration combines Ultra-HD footage from the Games with adaptable displays and contextual applications, giving viewers a truly immersive and enhanced experience.

Technology now extends across each aspect of the sporting experience, from the athletes to the spectator and beyond to experiential factors and our very understanding of sport. Although Glasgow currently holds the gold medal for being the most connected, it’ll no doubt be a record constantly broken as we, as sports fans and people, become more and more connected.


Phil Smith is CEO of Cisco UK & Ireland


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