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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 May 2007, 07:55 GMT 08:55 UK
Technology row over 2012 Olympics
By Jane Wakefield
Technology reporter, BBC News website

Digger working on Olympic site
Work has begun on creating the Olympic site in East London
The technologies that could help make the 2012 Olympic games more secure have not yet been announced but already a row has broken out about them.

It was sparked by comments made by Derek Wyatt, the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Olympic group.

At a security conference in London, he said that potential technology suppliers had been overlooked in favour of games sponsor Visa.

In a statement, Visa said it had no part to play in security for the games.

Its technology would play a "major role" in the area of payments, it said but security issues were the remit of the London Organising Committee and the Metropolitan Police.

"Technological advancements including contactless cards, due to be introduced in London later this year, will help Visa Europe to realise its vision for a cashless London Games," its statement read.

IT failure?

Derek Wyatt
We will have to wait for Visa to come forward with a system to cover the ticketing and ID system,
Derek Wyatt MP

Establishing identity was a crucial way of filtering out terrorists intent on disrupting the games, Mr Wyatt said in his keynote speech to the InfoSecurity conference in London last week.

He outlined some of the technologies that could play a part in providing a secure authentication system, including Transport for London's Oyster card and a mobile authentication system developed by Nokia.

But, he said, neither would make it to the table because neither of these firms were sponsors of the games.

"We will have to wait for Visa to come forward with a system to cover the ticketing and ID system," he said.

Visa refused to say whether it plans for a "cashless Olympics" would include an authentication system.

Andrea Simmons, a member of the British Computer Society's security group, said she was concerned that there had not been enough open discussions about what technology was needed for London 2012.

She said there was potential for "another IT project failure" in the way the technology was being allocated.

"We need to have security built in to the systems we provide for the games and yet we have a situation where it could be bolted on," she told the BBC News website.

"It seems that the Olympic Delivery Authority has not engaged with the right set of experts. We need to be looking at this now and yet there seems to be a lack of communication," she said.

Part of the problem seems to lie in who has overall responsibility for technology at the Olympics.

Atos Origin has long held the contract to provide the backbone for the results system, while both the London Organising Committee for the Olympics and the Olympics Delivery Authority (ODA) will also have responsibility for elements of technology.

No-one from ODA was available for comment.

Footing the bill

As well as water-tight ID cards, there was also a need for a common database for the various law enforcement agencies to share data on those working on the Olympic infrastructure, said Mr Wyatt.

The demands of the Olympic build meant a need for foreign labour and ensuring staff were checked before they were employed would be a crucial element to security, said Mr Wyatt.

It is likely that physical security is going to be the main preoccupation of the Olympic organisers, once the structures are in place.

The need for incredibly tight security was underlined when terrorists struck the London transport system just a day after the London win was announced.

Many believe the 1bn set aside for securing the games will be nowhere near enough.

Mr Wyatt courted more controversy by suggesting that it should be the International Olympic Committee that should foot the bill rather than the UK government.

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