Behind the scenes at the Sochi Olympics

IEC International Standards helped to make things work

By Janice Blondeau

Invisible but essential for the success of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, IEC work underpinned a host of technologies which helped in the smooth running of the Games.

IEC International Standards helped to ensure many aspects of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.(Photo: romantiche / 123RF Stock Photo) IEC International Standards helped to ensure many aspects of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.(Photo: romantiche / 123RF Stock Photo)

Invisible but essential

From access control and transportation for visitors, to timers and information systems for officials and athletes, cameras, microphones, lighting for announcers and the media, the stoves and appliances for catering, as well as the kilometres of cables and fibre optics in electrical and communication installations, IEC TCs (Technical Committees) and SCs (Subcommittees) prepare International Standards for a myriad of components and systems that were used throughout the Games venues and in the Sochi region.

Rail away to Sochi

The Sochi Aeroexpress, a special train link was constructed from Sochi International Airport to the city of Sochi to make transport easier. IEC TC 9: Electrical equipment and systems for railways, prepared the International Standard IEC 61373Railway applications - Rolling stock equipment - Shock and vibration tests, which sets down testing requirements for railway vehicle equipment subjected to vibrations and other similar shocks in connection with railway operations.

Timing is everything

Measuring athletes’ performances relies on sensors, and optoelectronic sensors in particular, used to trigger chronographs to measure time as competitors go past them.

TC 47: Semiconductor devices, and its subcommittees prepare International Standards for the design, manufacture, use and reuse of discrete semiconductor devices, integrated circuits, display devices, sensors, electronic component assemblies, interface requirements, and micro-electromechanical devices.

Electronic display devices form an integral part of all sporting events to show times, scores, and even replay some of the action. TC 110: Electronic display devices, works on standardization in the field of electronic display devices and their specific relevant components. TC 34: Lamps and related equipment, prepares standards for lamps and LEDs (Light-Emitting Diodes) used extensively in lighting throughout the Sochi Olympics.

Cables bring us the Olympic feats

To show audiences around the world athletes’ performances, photo agency Getty Images in a joint effort with AP (Associated Press), AFP (Agence France-Presse), Reuters and epa (european pressphoto agency) used a 20-kilometre fibre optic cable supporting a 100Mbps network that delivered images from southern Russia to the rest of the world within three minutes.

TC 86: Fibres optics, prepares standards for fibre optic systems, modules, devices and components intended for use with communications equipment, including indoor and outdoor cables, to ensure reliable system performance and operation.

One US television chain reportedly invested in 120 kilometres of cable for its television coverage of the Sochi Games. TC 100/TA 5: Cable networks for television signals, sound signals and interactive services, develops International Standards relating to cable networks including processing and distribution of television and sound signals. TC 100: Audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment, prepares international publications in the field of audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment including specification of the performance and interoperability with other systems or equipment.

Ventilation and cooling

A number of IEC TCs and SCs are involved in the preparation of International Standards for components and systems used in the ventilation and cooling of installations and devices – all key technologies when it came to keeping ice frozen for skaters and air flowing in areas with lots of people. 

In the indoor arenas in Sochi where ice hockey and ice skating took place, underfloor cooling systems ensured that the ice didn’t melt. This process used a chemical called propylene glycol, cooled in a refrigeration system and then pumped through to chill pipes in aluminium panels that sat directly below the ice.  SC 61C: Safety of refrigeration appliances for household and commercial use, prepares International Safety Standards for motor compressors, refrigerating appliances and similar appliances for household and commercial use.

IT standardization work central to Olympic Games organization

Ensuring the security of major global sporting events such as the Olympic Games represents a major challenge for organizers. The contests attract huge crowds and universal media coverage. Underpinning the overall security system for the Sochi Olympics were electronic devices and installations that rely on International Standards prepared by ISO/IEC JTC 1, the IEC and ISO (International Organization for Standardization) Joint Technical Committee that deals with Information Technology matters. ISO/IEC JTC 1 work was also widely used in systems that allowed spectators back home to enjoy the Olympic experience in front of their televisions.

Biometrics, automatic identification and security

Technological solutions to secure the site areas including ACS (access control systems) comprising RFID (radio-frequency identification) token and biometrics are covered by the work of ISO/IECJTC 1/SC 31: Automatic identification and data capture techniques, and ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 37: Biometrics.

Security surveillance for the Sochi Games included drones, reconnaissance robots, extensive network monitoring, sonar systems and high-speed patrol boats.  Drones and robots are essentially electromechanical systems that include electrical and electronic parts that depend on International Standards to operate properly and safely. These are prepared by various IEC TCs and SCs such as TC 47: Semiconductor devices, TC 44: Safety of machinery - Electrotechnical aspects, or SC 65 A: Industrial process measurement, control and automation. 

Is it a bird? No it’s a drone (camera)

These Olympics also provided a showcase for the use of drones in broadcasting live video of snowboard and ski jump competitions. Olympic Broadcasting Services, which provided the official world feed of all the events at the Games used a drone in Sochi. Broadcasting live from a remote-controlled device required an extra transmitter to send back live video and allows closer angles than from a helicopter. IEC TC work is once again not far away. TC 2: Rotating machinery, prepares International Standards regarding specifications for rotating electrical machines and TC 91: Electronics assembly technology, prepares International Standards on electronic assembly technologies including components.

Power up for Sochi Games

The successful hosting of sporting events, as well as preparing and transmitting media coverage of the Olympics depended on consistent, reliable sources of electricity, as did the various Olympic events that took place after nightfall or in enclosed athletic facilities. In addition, the remoteness of Sochi meant it needed new roads, increased train capacity, and new rail lines, all of which required power.

When Sochi was selected to host the winter Olympics it was far from major pipelines and energy transmission. Since 2007, Russia has built 49 major energy projects, according to its Energy Ministry. This has increased the capacity to generate electricity in the Sochi region by 800%.

A new power plant with two 90 MW generators, and running on two steam turbine units, was predicted to supply more than 25% of the energy needed during the 2014 Olympic Games.  Expected to generate about 1,5 million megawatt hours of electricity per year, the Dzhubginskaya plant aimed to keep the Olympics on the grid and in the future it will also provide power to 5 million people who live in the southern Krasnodar Krai region. This plant has major importance for modernizing the region’s energy sector according to local authorities.

Turbines, transformers and energy measurement and control

TC 5: Steam turbines, prepares specifications and International Standards for the rating and testing of steam turbines. TC 14: Power transformers, conducts standardization in the field of power transformers, tap-changers and reactors for use in power generation, transmission and distribution. TC 13: Electrical energy measurement and control, prepares International Standards in the field of a.c. and d.c. electrical energy measurement and control, for smart metering equipment and systems forming part of smart grids, used in power stations, along the network, and at energy users and producers.

So next time you sit down to watch a gripping global sporting event such as the Olympic Games or the World Cup, spare a thought for the thousands of technical experts whose work has helped to make the event run smoothly.

IEC International Standards helped to ensure many aspects of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.(Photo: romantiche / 123RF Stock Photo) IEC International Standards helped to ensure many aspects of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.(Photo: romantiche / 123RF Stock Photo)
Work that was invisible but vital to enable timers, cables, lighting, cameras... (Photo: Russian govt. ) Work that was invisible but vital to enable timers, cables, lighting, cameras... (Photo: Russian govt. )
Work that was invisible but vital to enable timers, cables, lighting, cameras... (Photo: Russian govt. ) Work that was invisible but vital to enable timers, cables, lighting, cameras... (Photo: Russian govt. )