The Olympic Games demand the best we have to offer in sporting talent, entertainment and hospitality. With each event, as the athletes strive to outclass their rivals' previous attempts, the organisers too face pressure from all sides to outdo the previous events.
Looking back just three years to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, for example, the world was a very different place- and that's only 3 years ago, when the latest iPhone model was a 3GS (remember those??). Since then, our uptake of smarter devices and applications, as well as our embrace of the multiple digital and social channels now available, has caused our technology and communications expectations at home, work and play to skyrocket.
We have very quickly become a hyper-connected generation, with both a desire and expectation to be able to communicate not just anytime and anywhere, but all the time, everywhere.
These demands are, in part, down to our growing appetite for and usage of increasingly nifty mobile gadgets. A recent Ofcom report revealed that smartphone ownership has doubled in two years, and incredibly, that of tablets has more than doubled in the last year alone, with more than a quarter of households owning at least one of these. As devices become cleverer and more affordable, uptake will continue to soar. But most interestingly, if we think about how quickly things have progressed in this short time, we can only imagine how different the world and its technology demands will be by the time the next Olympics rolls round.
There's no greater demonstration of our hunger for anywhere, anytime communications than large-scale international events. This year's 'Murray Mania' at Wimbledon sent the world into a social frenzy when 1.1 million people tweeted more than 2.6 million times, using tennis-related hashtags, around the globe. Nearly 80% of these tweets came from mobile devices.
For us, this was a good preview of Sochi 2014, an event custom-built for a high-tech, hyper-connected generation.
Indeed, in less than six months' time, the site is forecasted to host around 5,500 Olympic athletes, 25,000 volunteers and to attract approximately three billion TV viewers. Of the 75,000 people expected to visit the park each day, many will bring with them bandwidth-hungry devices and expect them to work seamlessly. This is because for many, to visit an Olympic Games will be a once in a lifetime opportunity, and understandably visitors will want to share their experiences on the go with friends and family back home. Whether this is through picture messaging, live streaming, live tweeting, Facebook posts or Skype - there are now a multitude of channels through which we can share on-the-go and the network must cope with these huge data demands and spikes in traffic.
Aside from device-based demands, the greenfield Sochi site presents its own challenges. The Olympics events will take place in two clusters - a mountain and a coastal cluster - with a range of new venues being built across the two. That meant that the network had to be built from scratch, and must be ready to provide continual connectivity and consistent quality of service across all venues for athletes, media, Olympic family, and IOC members - no easy feat, but critical for the success of the Games.
As we approach the finishing line to our work at Sochi 2014, we realise that what large-scale, international events highlight is the true extent of hyper-connectivity, and the pace at which it's evolving. We've very rapidly become a generation that expects to be able to communicate not just anytime and anywhere, but all the time and everywhere. We can only hope that our ability to rapidly innovate will continue, and look forward to seeing what technology will facilitate in the future.
Michael Bayer is president of Avaya for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Avaya is the official provider of network equipment and services to the Russian 2014 Winter Olympic Games.