Flora London Marathon
HP ProCurve Networking sets the pace at the 2008 London Marathon
After the inaugural race in 1981, the London Marathon has steadily grown in size, stature and popularity to become one of the most established events in the world’s sporting calendar. Sponsored by Flora since 1996, the London Marathon continues to be a massive draw to runners, spectators and television audiences in over 150 countries worldwide. Since the race’s conception, fun-runners have raised over £38 million (approximately $50 million) for charitable causes. At this popular annual road marathon, elite athletes, wheelchair athletes, club and funrunners make their way around the 42.195 kilometres course from Blackheath, south of the River Thames to The Mall, near St James’s Park. Interesting sites en route include the famous Cutty Sark clipper, Tower Bridge, London’s redeveloped Docklands, the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace.
HP ProCurve partners with the TI Group
During the event, the world’s media demands incredibly detailed statistics about runners as they progress around the course. Commentators expect ‘live’ information about the leaders of each race including their position, split-times and projected finishing times. Broadcasters need to direct cameras to specific locations for interviews with well-known celebrities or to relay interesting images of the fun-runners. The TI Group in conjunction with Mika Timing have implemented network solutions for the London Marathon for several years. Mika Timing is a leading sports timing company that covers over 200 events annually. It delivers services such as graphical representations of real-time results.
“Every year the Wide Area Network (WAN) and applications we use become more sophisticated as the demand for more race information, and the service level expectations of the BBC and other media organisations increases. This is the first year we have used an HP ProCurve Adaptive Network solution,” explains Paul Hepburn, technical director, TI Group. The HP portfolio of WAN specific products is extensive and industry leading. HP WAN products are designed for reliability and performance while never forgetting the security needs of prestigious companies worldwide.
Twenty-four hours and counting
“The challenge is quite daunting,” continues Hepburn. “Our team manages everything including the creation of a WAN that covers ten strategically placed data stations used by the BBC, information centres, press centres and London’s Metropolitan Police Service. Each station has to receive information about every runner as they traverse the course.” To do this, every runner wears a unique chip and Mika Timing personnel lay mats at five kilometre intervals around the course. As runners pass over the mats, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology relays their location automatically to one of the stations so that team members can process the data for instant transmission by the BBC. “However, we only gain access to the sites 24 hours before the race,” adds Hepburn. “We have minimal time to equip the main Tower Hotel press centre with the ProCurve networking infrastructure. Moreover, every station must be equipped with a suitable number of laptops or PCs, routers and BRI/VPN modules to receive the incoming data.